Revving up an Old Initiative

For a species so intelligent, human beings have a pretty devastating record of making mistakes. This has already showed up on the surface quite a few times throughout our history, with each appearance practically forcing us to look for a defensive cover. To the world’s credit, it will find just the right answer to its conundrum by bringing dedicated regulatory bodies into the fold. The move was a game-changer, as it instantly gave us a cushion against a lot of our mistakes. By doing so, it expectantly ushered us towards possibilities that we couldn’t even have conceived otherwise, but as groundbreaking as it might have looked, the whole utopia was also quite short-lived. You see, the moment technology and its layered nature took over the scene, it allowed certain people to seamlessly fulfil their ulterior motives, while also protecting them from any consequences for the same. The scale on which this runner started to materialize will, in fact, overwhelm our governing forces, thus sending them back to the drawing board. Fortunately, though, the wheels are moving once again, and as a result, a comeback finally seems to be on the cards. If anything, the same pattern was put on full display by a recent White House decision.

The White House has formally ordered all federal agencies to make publicly funded research available for free after publication, and they must do it right away rather than putting the content behind a paywall for a year. Beyond the removal of a 12-month embargo, the new guidelines mandate publications to format the entire material in a comprehensive and machine-friendly manner so to ensure a standard level of convenience when it comes to searching and cataloguing. Next up, it is now compulsory to include metadata like funding sources and author affiliations in your publication. This should help in educating people in regards to who is backing the research. While the primary focus is certainly on the final results, the new regulations also ask publications to share all the data that inspired their study. Notably, the said pointer won’t be applicable in situations where sharing data could possibly cause legal, ethical, or security problems.

As for how the publishing companies took this call, Shelley Husband, spokesperson of Association of American Publishers summed up their disappointment in the following statement:

“Today’s announcement… comes without formal, meaningful consultation or public input during this administration on a decision that will have sweeping ramifications, including serious economic impact. In a no-embargo environment, in which private publications will be made immediately available by the government for free, our primary concerns are about business sustainability and quality.”

Mind you, the Biden administration isn’t the first US government to vouch for an open access policy. We actually saw this initiative taking shape during Barack Obama’s tenure, but various limitations such as the 12-month embargo and a much smaller federal footprint kept it from making a lot of noise. Now, with all that gone, a new dawn is pretty much set to be realized soon.

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