Season 1 – Episode 23: Open Access: Federal Rule Change
As open access continues to become more prominent in the field of academic publishing, it is essential to have a foundational understanding of the topic as it continues to evolve. Recently, the Biden administration announced it instructed all U.S. federal agencies to require open access to federally funded research, starting in 2026. The U.S. is the world’s biggest research funder, according to Nature and as such, the change to require federally funded research to be open access will increase the number of scientific research articles publicly available. CITI Program’s Open Access Publishing: An Introduction webinar provides individuals with a better understanding of open-access publications.
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Darren Gaddis: From CITI Program, I’m Darren Gaddis, and this is On Campus. Today, what are open access publications, the benefits of open access research, and have the Federal Government’s 2026 rule implementation on open access research impacts academia. I spoke with Paige Morgan, Digital Publishing and copyright Librarian and Head of Digital Initiatives and Preservation at the University of Delaware Library Museums and Press.
As a reminder, this podcast is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice or guidance. You should consult with your organization’s attorneys if you have questions or concerns about the relevant laws and regulations discussed in this podcast. Additionally, the views express in this podcast are solely those of the presenter.
Hi, Paige. Thank you for joining me today.
Paige Morgan: Thank you so much for having me, Darren. I’m happy to be here.
Darren Gaddis: Paige, to get us started, what is an open access publication?
Paige Morgan: That’s a great question. There’s more confusion about what is an open access publication than you might think. A true and fully open access publication is free to read for everyone at any time. It will never be behind a pay wall that asks you to pay $49.99 to have access for 24 or 48 hours. Anyone can access it on the internet at any time.
Sometimes journals will make a publication openly available for the first couple of months since it’s been published, as a promotional device, but that isn’t a truly open access publication. Indeed, if you make the mistake of thinking that it is and come back three months later to read it again and find, “Oh, gosh. They want to charge me 60 bucks to read this.” That’s not actually a way. That’s just a publisher giving you a brief promotional window.
It can be useful to distinguish between publications, which are free to read for anyone at any time, and publications that are not only free to read, but also free to reuse i.e. You can teach with them. You can copy them. You can distribute them themselves yourself. That is a key difference in open access that not everyone knows about. But truthfully, the big thing is, is the publication freely accessible at any times. No pay wall, no login. You can just go to the link and read it.
Darren Gaddis: What are some of the benefits to open access research or publications?
Paige Morgan: One of the biggest ones is that when publications are open access, it is much more likely that they will be read and used by people all over the world. That might be in the context of folks professional work, scientists, historians, sociologists, all sorts of people rely on research. If they can access scholarship without restriction, they’re much more able to be able to continue incredible groundbreaking work that they’re trying to do.
In some cases, another reason that people might be trying to access research is for personal medical study. I’m not talking about ask Dr. Google what’s wrong with you. I am talking about researching new treatments and therapies for newly arising medical issues, being able to stay at the cutting edge of science so that if you or a family member are facing a severe medical issue and trying to find a treatment plan, you may be able to help your doctor identify new research, but only if you can access the research in the first place. You might think, “Oh, well, surely my doctor has access to this research already.” But in fact, the answer is not necessarily. It depends on whether your doctor’s institution has a subscription to the journals by a particular publisher. Those subscriptions are phenomenally expensive, much more expensive than you might think. So if it is absolutely true that if a paper is openly available, as opposed to behind a pay wall, you might be able to get access to it and it’s entirely possible that your doctor may not have realized that the paper was available.
It can benefit both researchers, who of course want their hard work to be read and used by other people, and it can benefit individual members of the public who are looking for information to solve the problems that we face today.
Darren Gaddis: With all of this information, how does the federal Government’s 2026 rule implementation to require all federally funded research to be open access impact academia and research?
Paige Morgan: For academics who are publishing papers, in many cases, as they are going through the publication process, they will reach a point where their paper has been accepted, and they will have a choice between publishing it and leaving it behind a pay wall so that it’s harder for people to access, or making it openly available and paying what’s known as an article processing charge fee. Ostensibly, these fees are meant to help cover the costs of publication, but it’s not actually clear that they add up to the established costs that exist in publishing, and these fees are extremely high in many cases. It used to be that the fee might be $300 to $500 for publication. These days, it’s much more likely for an article processing charge, or APC fee, to be at least in the low four figures, so that might be $2500, it might be $3500. For especially prestigious journals, the APC fee can rise into the low five figures, so $10,000, $11,000 per article.
Now academics are usually expected to publish several articles per year, especially if they are early in their career, trying to get tenure. At those high APC fees, if you do the math, you’ll see that before long, the academics entire salary would go towards paying those APC fees, and that’s not a sustainable or a healthy situation. The new policy from the federal government is meant to try and create an alternative pathway, and create a justification so that researchers can say to their publishers, “This has to be made public. It’s part of the terms of the federal funding that sponsored this research.” Publishers have been responsive to those mandates.
Darren Gaddis: How do individuals in academia and publishing feel about this rule change?
Paige Morgan: Well, I have not had all that much of a chance yet to feel out colleagues who work in publishing, particularly not colleagues who work for the biggest publishers out there, the ones whose profit margins are in the millions, or even billions of dollars. A lot of the academics who I know and work with are a little bit nervous, but as soon as we start talking, as soon as I start helping them understand the context and how this is likely to affect their ability to publish research and make it openly available, make it more widely read and used, I’m finding that people are beginning to feel reassured. Everyone is a little bit uncertain, and I think that that’s normal when a major policy shift like this comes along and you’re not sure how it’s going to be implemented. What are the different publishers going to do? I would feel uncertain too, but I think that what people are worrying is that, “Oh, this means that I’m going to have to pay those APCs every time.” This policy doesn’t mean that. It’s working to put pressure on publishers more than on researchers.
Darren Gaddis: Paige, in your opinion, why did the federal government decide to make this rule change now?
Paige Morgan: I think that many key advocates for science, for the humanities, and for society in general, have been advocating for open access for a long time. I would say that compared to the rest of the world, open access is an area where the U.S. has lagged behind both Europe and South America. Other countries are already ahead of us in recognizing the importance of making research openly available, especially research that has been funded and paid for by taxpayers.
The alternative is that taxpayers are paying for this research and supporting it, and then being told, “Oh, well, to actually access it, you got to pay $59.99,” or even more than that. That’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars, and I think the federal government understands that. This change is in part cognizant of the fact that taxpayers are already paying for research.
Darren Gaddis: Paige, what else should we know about the upcoming rule change to publications and federally sponsored research?
Paige Morgan: That’s a good question, and I mean, I think one of the important things to know is that this is coming, but we have until the end of 2025, so nearly three years in which academics, publishers, libraries, universities, are all going to have the opportunity to work together to figure out what this implementation looks like.
Darren Gaddis: Paige, as always, thank you for joining me today.
Paige Morgan: You’re very welcome.
Darren Gaddis: Be sure to follow, like and subscribe to On Campus with the CITI program to stay in the know. I also invite you to review our content offerings regularly, as we are continually adding new courses and webinars that may be of interest to you. All of our content is available to you anytime through organizational and individual subscriptions. You may also be interested in CITI programs, Preparing for Success in Scholarly Publishing course. Please visit the CITI program’s website to learn more about all of our offerings.
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- Season 1 – Episode 22: Clery Act Training
- Season 1 – Episode 21: Student Engagement: Colleges and Universities
- Season 1 – Episode 20: Flu Season and College Campuses
- Season 1 – Episode 19: Doctoral and Graduate Student Advising
Meet the Guest
Paige Morgan, PhD – University of Delaware
Paige Morgan is the Digital Publishing and Copyright Librarian and Head of Digital Scholarship and Publishing, and Head of Digital Collections and Preservation at the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press.
Meet the Host
Darren Gaddis, Host, On Campus Podcast – CITI Program
He is the host of the CITI Program’s higher education podcast. Mr. Gaddis received his BA from University of North Florida, MA from The George Washington University, and is currently a doctoral student at Florida State University.