Last month, the US NIH released a Request for Information (RFI) for feedback on its planned implementation of last year’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directive to make all US federally-funded research immediately publicly accessible.
In addition to ensuring that “publications resulting from NIH-supported research are made available in PMC without embargo following publication,” the plan includes detailed information on the management and sharing of associated data.
Below, we share ASAPbio’s response to the NIH RFI and opportunities for you to get involved in writing your own.
Writing your own response
This is an important opportunity for researchers and other community members to voice support for open access and open science. Responses, which can be written by anyone, are due April 24.
At an RFI information session and response workshop on April 18, 2023 we shared relevant background information and talking points.
Other responses and resources
- April 12 listening session – presentations on the Public Access plan and 13 comments from respondents (including ASAPbio)
- arXiv supports the bioRxiv/medRxiv response to the NIH RFI
- cOAlition S
- Kristen Ratan, Cofounder at ICOR
- Mayank Chugh, Postdoc at Harvard Medical School
ASAPbio is a 501(c)(3) organization working to promote innovation and transparency in life sciences communication.
We are fully supportive of the 2022 OSTP directive to make all federally-funded research immediately accessible upon publication. Based on the public access plan the NIH has proposed in response to this memo, we appreciate the NIH’s desire to ensure equitable access to research for diverse stakeholders, and to ensure that this is provided at reasonable costs that do not exacerbate existing disparities. Furthermore, we support the need to ensure that research outputs are findable and discoverable through robust infrastructure and standards.
Many of these goals can be supported by moving toward a model where preprints are the primary form of sharing; this would also provide a strong foundation for aligning researchers’ incentives with the goals set out in the RFI. Many researchers now experience a disconnect between wanting to share work with the community and existing incentives for keeping data private. In a preprint-centric model, researchers would be recognized for sharing their work early and completely, which would also accelerate scientific discovery. Preprints also support rigor, reproducibility, and integrity by allowing broad engagement in public commenting and peer review. Given these benefits, we offer the following suggestions for using preprints to promote equitable, cost-effective, and discoverable publishing.
We appreciate the prioritization of equitable publication opportunities for researchers as well as access to research articles. Preprints provide a mechanism to meet both goals. Unlike many journal publishing models, preprints are free to post and free to access. Given racial disparities in federal funding, preprints create equity by including those who do not have access to funds for journal publication costs. We call on NIH to recognize preprints that are identical in substance to the latest article version as an option for compliance with its open access policy.
Operating costs for preprint servers are much lower than the average ~$1,600 article-processing charge at journals that require publication fees (source). However, the sustainability of preprint servers is a critical question. They are currently supported by private funders, publishers, institutions and library consortia without long-term commitments. A publicly funded preprint infrastructure offers a sustainable way to achieve equitable access to publishing. We suggest that NIH directly fund the community-owned preprint servers that support the communication needs of its researchers.
Open access, not just free to access
Preprints need to be open access, meaning licensed for reuse. NIH has already taken a positive step by recommending the CC BY license for preprints (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-17-050.html). However, many preprints on popular servers are still not being published under these licenses, risking the creation of walled gardens. To remedy this, we urge NIH to require that supported investigators publish their preprints and other publications under a CC BY or less restrictive license.
The NIH could make preprints more discoverable by extending the NLM preprint pilot to all preprints, not just those that are NIH-funded. Furthermore, an increasing number of preprints now are being reviewed outside of journals (see groups listed at sciety.org). These reviews should be indexed and connected to preprints on NLM’s databases, and they should be visible on the SciENcv profiles of the reviewers who authored them. In addition, metadata for preprints and preprint reviews should be made freely available through appropriate infrastructures, such as the Crossref infrastructure.
Finally, we urge the NIH to move forward with an international focus. Scientific progress is a global endeavor, and implementation needs to be in line with broader frameworks rather than reinventing existing infrastructure. There is support for broad and equitable access to research works via government and funder initiatives in Latin America (e.g. SciELO and AmeliCA) and Europe (e.g. Open Research Europe (ORE)), and also mature infrastructure to enable the use of persistent identifiers (DOI, ORCID, ROR) and appropriate metadata. The NIH should ensure any new infrastructures make use of these common standards and are interoperable with these existing projects. Now is the time for global collaboration to make rapid progress on improving scientific communications infrastructure.