Regional policy developments and their implications for open infrastructure


The 2021 adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science marks a meaningful milestone in the global movement to make “the scientific process more transparent, inclusive and democratic” (UNESCO Open Science Advisory Committee, 2021). While there are other motivators for this shift, the time seems right to share here an overview of recent open science and adjacent policy developments across Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and to reflect on the implications for open digital research infrastructure. 

Looking across these regions, we could not help but notice the diversity of the levers used to advance open science and the scale at which they operate. Europe, Africa, and Latin America have strong regional and continental initiatives and/or networks in development or in place, and we also see some trans-continental cooperation between Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Recent legal developments in the EU and their potential to both advance and also perhaps complicate open science practices are also noteworthy. In contrast, we are not aware of significant open science initiatives across North America; accordingly, our focus here is on the United States, where the U.S. federal government is one of the most important drivers of open science practice.

Another observation is that the scope and core priorities across this landscape differ. In the U.S., while equity in participation is a component of the recent government-wide mandate to promote public access to research, it is secondary to providing access to research outputs. Public access to research outputs is also a long-standing priority and driver of policy in Latin America. On the African continent, access to opportunities to perform research is on more equal footing, but this probably reflects a history of low investment in supporting infrastructure and access to it. Meanwhile, the EU has an ambitious open science policy that focuses on providing early access to research using digital and collaborative technology, but is also embedded within a landscape of technological policy initiatives with potentially profound implications for the entire digital ecosystem.

This is a rich space and we cannot do it justice here, and we also plan to release later this year a more comprehensive report on the policy landscape in selected regions.

Policy developments in Africa

Within the African context, open science, and by extension open infrastructure, has been pioneered and largely driven by researchers and universities. This is in part due to the fact that governmental research and development (R&D) spending on the continent has been very low. In 2007, the African Union set a target to have all African countries spend a minimum of 1% of their GDP on R&D by 2010 (Iizuka et al 2015). To date, no African country surpasses that 1% threshold, Kenya and South Africa are closest to meeting this threshold at 0.8% each (Midega et al., 2021).

While financial support for open science at the country level may be sparse, the organization of national and regional networks that are well positioned to support and advance open science policy and infrastructure is notable. In the early 2000s, national research and education networks (NRENs) started being formed in Africa with a view towards enhancing internet connectivity and shared resources for academia and research institutions. The formation of NRENs is driven by research institutions, universities, and in some instances, the government. One of the biggest barriers towards the adoption of open science in the continent was the issue of connectivity, which in the early 2000’s was prohibitively expensive, and in many places non-existent. The Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET) and the Kenya Education Network Trust (KENET) were the first networks formed in 1998 and 1999 respectively, and since then there has been a steady formation of NRENs, some of which are being started even in 2024. These NRENS have evolved from just providing connectivity to providing services such as high-performance computing, cloud storage, and identity federation. However, even at this time, some countries do not have any NRENs to support connectivity of their universities and research institutions to high-speed networks (Mwangi et al., 2021; Foley, 2016).

Besides the establishment of NRENs, effort has also been put into forming regional research and education networks (RRENs). To date, there are three research and education networks that can be considered as RRENs in Africa, namely UbuntuNet Alliance (covering East and Southern Africa), the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN), and the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN). 

There have also been a number of initiatives on the continent that are aimed at advancing open science on the continent. Launched in 2016 by WACREN, Library Support for Embedded NREN Services and E-infrastructure (LIBSENSE)[1] aims to bring together the RENs and academic library communities to strengthen open access and open science in Africa. LIBSENSE has been holding regional policy development workshops in collaboration with regional research networks and university associations to implement the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation at the campus level. Another key dimension is that LIBSENSE has been providing open science policy templates to make it easier for institutions to enact and implement open science policies. An example of this is in Sierra Leone, where LIBSENSE helped form an NREN (SL-REN) and now is also working with stakeholders there to develop a national open science policy (LIBSENSE, 2023). 

Another regional initiative driving open science in Africa is the African Open Science Platform (AOSP).[2] AOSP is an initiative formed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa as a direct outcome of the NRF Open Access Statement that came into effect in March 2015 (National Research Foundation, 2015). It has the mission to put African scientists at the cutting edge of contemporary, data-intensive science. AOSP is developing an integrated approach involving a federated hardware, communications and software infrastructure, developing policies and enabling practices to support open science in the digital era, and a network of excellence in open science that supports scientists and other societal actors in accumulating and using modern data resources to maximize scientific, social and economic benefit.

Policy development at the regional and international levels

There are a number of instruments that have been implemented at continental and regional levels to contribute to the adoption of open science in Africa. First is Agenda 2063 (African Union Commission, 2015), which is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. The plan, developed by the African Union, places an emphasis on science, technology and innovation (STI) as integral to Africa’s transformation. In Agenda 2063, we can see the building blocks that can be used to further entrench and implement open science in the continent.Prominence is given to STI in Aspiration 1 and 2, and world-class information and communications technology is seen as crucial for Africa’s transformation. One of the core areas for Agenda 2063 is the development of a pan-African e-network. This component looks at the development of terrestrial and submarine connectivity infrastructure to help enhance internet connectivity and pan-African collaboration on STI.

Second is the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA, African Union Commission, 2014) built to operationalize sections of Agenda 2063 in relation to STI. STISA was designed as a series of policy frameworks to be renewed after 10 years to ensure that Africa is able to respond to the dynamism of the STI sector. In STISA 2024, open science is not mentioned explicitly but rather inferred through terms like open data, open innovation, and the co-creation of research and innovation. 

In STISA, there are four mutually reinforcing pillars which are prerequisite conditions for its success. These pillars are: building and/or upgrading research infrastructures; enhancing professional and technical competencies; promoting entrepreneurship and innovation; and providing an enabling environment for STI development in the African continent (Hamdy, n.d.). STISA explicitly outlines the important role that NRENs have in facilitating coordinated collaboration between themselves as well as with other adjacent stakeholders across the continent to further innovation and research.

We also have the African Union Declaration on Internet Governance (Degezelle, 2022) which was ratified in 2017 in Algeria by information and communications technology (ICT) Ministers from across Africa. The Declaration advocates for an open, transparent, and inclusive strategy of internet governance based on the principles of openness, including freedom of expression, respect for private life, universal access and technical interoperability.

At the regional level, there are initiatives such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, 2020) and the East African Community (EAC)’s East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO)[3] that are helping to drive open science. 

Policy development at the national level

Over the past decade, we have seen an increasing number of national open access (OA) policies in Africa, and recently also an increase in the number of open science policies. There is also an interplay with policy development at the regional and international levels as they have influenced how national open science policies are developed. We summarize in Table 1 some of the recently implemented and upcoming open science policies in Africa.

Country Year Policy
Ethiopia 2019 National OA policy adopted by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Ethiopia (MOSHE) in 2019 (Beyene et al., 2022). It mandates open access to all published articles, theses, dissertations, and data resulting from publicly-funded research and encourages open science best practices, including the use of data management plans (DMPs) by researchers and FAIR data practices. One of the implications of the policy has been the formation of the National Academic Library of Ethiopia,[4] a free, centralized repository of Ethiopian research.
South Africa 2022 South Africa has a first draft of an open science policy, discussed in a stakeholder consultation meeting in February 2022 (Merwe, 2022), which mandates open access for publicly funded research processes and outputs, including data acquired or generated by public funds. The policy proposes the establishment of a “national 4 forum” to promote best practices in open science as well as incentives for researchers to publish in open-access journals.The South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in 2022 announced that it is considering creating the South Africa Open Science Cloud (SAOSC), modelled on the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC; Cavalli, 2022).
Multiple countries 2022 Work to develop national open science roadmaps has been done in various countries across Africa to varying stages of maturity, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda (Oaiya, 2022).
Table 1. Selected country-level open science policies in Africa.


Despite the relatively late formation of open science policies in Africa compared to other regions, there is a lot of momentum for open science in the continent at the moment. There are a raft of national open science policies in development and also numerous initiatives led by NRENs, RRENs, and research organizations that are also helping drive the open science agenda. The UNESCO Recommendation of 2021 has been a big boost to efforts to advance open science on the continent. By defining open science, defining stakeholders critical to its successful implementation, as well as addressing key issues like multilingualism of science, this has de-mystified open science in Africa. The Recommendation has helped provide some parameters to factor in when making policies and this previously was an important, yet missing component. 

Policy developments in Europe

Open science is a policy priority for the European Commission. The EU’s open science policy details eight areas of ambition, including the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC, more below), open data, metrics development, scholarly communication, research integrity, and more (European Commission, 2019). The policy’s development and implementation are supported by the European Commission's research and innovation funding programmes[5] and synergize with the EU’s support for international bodies and platforms such as Plan S, the Research Data Alliance, and the ISC’s Committee on Data of the International Science Council (CODATA)(European Commission, 2019). 

The EU’s policy and investment into open science also impact the development of national open science and infrastructure policies and strategies in Europe, which we will elaborate on in a more comprehensive report. In this section, instead, we focus on recent EU-level legislation in the broader technology and digital infrastructure space that may have implications for open research infrastructure development and strategy in Europe and around the world. These legislative developments are motivated by the increase in power and prevalence of big tech companies and their platforms, the desire to safeguard digital sovereignty (see our Future signals editorial for more on digital sovereignty), and the growth of the open movement and digital public good conversations internationally and in Europe.

The EU Open Data Directive entered into force in July 2019. It is a key instrument mandating that EU Member States develop open access policies that must be compatible with the FAIR principles and ensure that such research data becomes available for re-use. The directive is not straightforward as to which entities are responsible for permitting the re-use of research data, but we can deduce that Research Funding Organisations (RFOs) and Research Performing Organizations (RPOs) have key roles to play (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (European Commission) and Eechoud, 2022). This instrument also impacts the development of the EOSC, a pan-European venture with the ambition to provide European researchers, innovators, companies and citizens with a federated and open multi-disciplinary environment where they can publish, find and reuse data, tools and services for research, innovation and educational purposes (European Commission, n.d.).

The European Data Governance Act, which entered into force in June 2022, aims to “make more data available and facilitate data sharing across sectors and EU countries in order to leverage the potential of data for the benefit of European citizens and businesses” (European Commission, 2024a). The part of the Act that potentially affects research infrastructure is Chapter III where it introduces a notification and supervision framework for data intermediation services, services aiming to “establish commercial relationships for the purpose of data sharing between an undetermined number of data subjects and data holders, on the one hand, and data users on the other hand, through technical, legal or other means, including for the exercise of data subjects’ rights in relation to personal data”. Scientific data repositories are not in the scope of the Data Governance Act because of their non-commercial nature, but some in the research community have noted that the case of hybrid initiatives should be clarified (League of European Research Universities, 2022, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (European Commission) and Eechoud, 2022). 

The European Data Act, which entered into force in January 2024, complements the Data Governance Act in clarifying who can create value from data and under which conditions (European Commission, 2024d). Particular aspects of the Act that can concern digital research infrastructure include provisions to enable users of connected products to access the data generated by these products and to share such data with third parties, and rules that allow customers to switch seamlessly between different cloud providers (European Commission, 2024b), which especially may substantially impact EOSC (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (European Commission) and Eechoud, 2022). The Data Act also revisits certain aspects of the Database Directive, in particular the scope of sui generis database rights, which may have implications on which and under what circumstances databases and data repositories in the research and scholarship space are protected (European Commission 2021a,b,c; Bernier et al., 2023).

The Digital Services Act package consists of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Market Act (DMA). The package aims to “create a safer digital space in which fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected and to establish a level-playing field to foster innovation, growth and competitiveness, both in the European Single Market and globally” (European Commission, 2024c). The DSA, which specifies additional obligations for online intermediary services and platforms, can create new costs and impacts for research infrastructure service providers. For example, if repositories fall under the DSA’s definition of platforms, they will need to establish the “notice and action”, internal complaint handling, and trusted flagger systems and functions (European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Lundqvist, B., 2022). The DMA establishes qualifying criteria for large online platforms as “gatekeepers” and their obligations. Currently, while no research infrastructure service providers nor their core platform services are designated under the DMA, gatekeepers could emerge in the digital research and scholarship industry (European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Lundqvist, B., 2022), affecting how users (institutions and researchers) can interact with them and the data they hold.

We also describe and note the following EU-level policies that have yet to enter into force but will potentially impact the development of open infrastructure and related policies in Europe, at both the continental and national levels.

The EU AI Act takes a risk-based approach to fostering trustworthy AI in Europe and guaranteeing the safety and fundamental rights of people and businesses when it comes to AI (European Commission, 2024e). Research and research infrastructures become increasingly dependent on AI tools and models (see our Future signals editorial for some of the trends we’re paying attention to). Although most of the AI models used in research infrastructure are unlikely to be classified as high risk, the Act is still likely to have some effect on the research community, particularly on those who are developing AI models as part of their research or tool and infrastructure development. However, it is worth noting that a clause has been added to the draft act to exempt AI models developed purely for research, development, or prototyping (Gibney, 2024). 

The EU Cyber Resilience Act (CRA) introduces mandatory cybersecurity requirements for manufacturers and retailers of products or software with a digital component to ensure that cybersecurity is maintained throughout a product’s lifecycle (European Commission, 2023). When the draft text of the CRA was released in 2023, the open-source community was particularly concerned that upstream communities would be made responsible for downstream vulnerabilities (Linux Foundation, n.d.). Thankfully, the European Commission has responded to the community’s feedback and adjusted the final text, which excludes free and open-source software (FOSS) products that are not monetised by their manufacturer and contributors who are not providing FOSS from its scope (Team NLnet Labs, 2024). However, it is likely that some open-source research infrastructures (particularly those that have the intention to monetize) will still be regulated by the CRA. Further, integrators of FOSS are obliged to share any vulnerabilities they have found in a component with the manufacturer, including any patches they might have developed (Hubert, 2023). All this would mean additional work and processes for open infrastructures to comply with the CRA. Interestingly, the CRA also specifies obligations for “open-source software stewards”, who “play a main role in ensuring the viability of [FOSS which is intended for commercial activities]”, in “putting in place and document in a verifiable manner a cybersecurity policy to foster the development of a secure product with digital elements as well as an effective handling of vulnerabilities by the developers of that product” (Hubert, 2023).

In conclusion, while open science priorities and policy initiatives in Europe (both at EU and national levels) impact the development and adoption of open research and scholarship infrastructure in the continent, as the infrastructure under consideration here is digital, it is worth paying attention to and considering a wider landscape of recent and emerging policies that may impact the users, service providers, and other stakeholders in research and scholarship sector, in order to achieve a more holistic understanding of where investment, resources, and support may be needed to increase the resilience and health of open infrastructure. 

Policy developments in Latin America

Policy development at the regional and international levels

Within the Latin American context, there has always been a view of “science as a public good” rather than “science as a commodity” (Harris et al., 2021). This is supported by the fact that Diamond Open Access (Mounier & Rooryck, 2023) is well-established across the region as well as the relatively high investment by the government in research and scholarship. Becerril-García and Aguado-López (2019) characterizes the impact of these views on the ecosystem as follows:

The Latin American region, as a result, owns an ecosystem characterized by the fact that "publishing" is conceived as acts of "making public", of "sharing", rather than the activity of a profit-driven publishing industry (…) Latin American academic journals are led, owned and financed by academic institutions. It is uncommon to outsource editorial processes.

A series of international policies within Latin America underpins the development of open access and consequently open science within the region. The foundational policy that forms the bedrock of open science in Latin America was the Santo Domingo Declaration Science for the 21st Century: A New Vision and Framework for Action in 1999 (Anonymous, 1999). This declaration was the outcome of a conference organized by UNESCO and the World Federation of Scientific Workers (WFSW) held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This declaration aimed to outline a new vision and framework for scientific endeavours in the 21st century. This policy document lays the groundwork for the coordination of STI actions in the region and introduces a narrative consistent with what will later become open access and open science policies (European Commission & Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2023). The declaration emphasized the importance of science and technology in the region's development and called for increased collaboration, investment, and integration of scientific efforts.

The key elements of the Santo Domingo Declaration include the promotion of open science, increased funding for research and development, and the establishment of networks to facilitate knowledge exchange. The Declaration seeks to enhance the visibility of Latin American scientific research on the global stage and encourage the free flow of scientific information.

While there are other policy frameworks that were developed to support open science in Latin America after the Santa Domingo Declaration, for the purpose of this report, we focus on policies enacted in or after 2018. 

The Panama Declaration on Open Science (2018)[6] was made public by members of the universities and civil society organizations gathered in Panama City (Becerril-García & Aguado-López, 2019). One of the key aims of the Panama Declaration was “to move towards collaborative models of knowledge creation, management, communication, preservation and recognise that open science required going beyond open access, by repositioning society's leadership role to produce and benefit from science, technology and innovation.”

The Declaration emphasizes the development of national and regional open science policies and infrastructures and ethical considerations in open science, including responsible data-sharing practices and addressing potential risks, and advocates for strengthened regional collaboration and South-South partnerships.

The Panama Declaration set the tone for more international collaborations to further open science. In 2021, we saw LA Referencia and RedCLARA (an RREN in Latin America) sign a memorandum of understanding with the three African RRENs with the aim of advancing open science policies, services, and infrastructure that reflect the unique needs and conditions of each continent within a framework of international cooperation (AfricaConnect3, 2021). Other examples of international collaborations are the Building the Europe Link to Latin America and the Caribbean (BELLA) I and II[7] programmes that seek to enhance internet connectivity between Europe and Latin America via submarine and terrestrial cables, and the development of LA Referencia’s metadata validation service based on the OpenAIRE standard, which makes Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) repositories and European repositories interoperable. The EU-LAC Foundation is an international intergovernmental body established in 2010 by LAC and EU states. Its mandate is to build bridges to increase mutual knowledge and promote dialogue and collaboration on issues that are high on the agenda of the strategic partnership between the two regions, such as higher education, science, technology, and innovation.

Policy development at the national level

Table 2 provides an overview of policy and planning initiatives aimed at increasing the adoption of open science in Latin America. Since 2018, we have seen a significant increase in the number of countries with open access/science policies, which provides a solid base for open infrastructure adoption in the region.

Country Year Policy
Brazil2022The fifth Open Governance National Action Plan of Brazil (2021-2023) commits to building aresearch assessment model to promote open science as an alternative to the models currently applied in Brazil.
Argentina2021The Argentinean Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MINCyT) created the Advisory Committee on Open Science and Citizen Science, which has written the document _Diagnosis and Roadmap for an Open Science Policy_ in Argentina. This builds on a 2013 law that requires that the outcomes of publicly funded research must be freely available in open access institutional repositories.
Chile2022In Chile, the initiative Datos Científicos (Scientific Data) has been established by the National Research and Development Agency (ANID, formerly National Commission of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT)), requiring that all data derived from research funded by ANID must be deposited in open repositories in adequate formats.
2021ANID granted 12 universities funding through the Innovation in Higher Education (InES) fund for a period of two years to strengthen their institutional capacities in open science, one of the most important dimensions being the implementation of technological infrastructure that complies with international interoperability standards.
Uruguay2019Uruguay does not have a national science policy. However, the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), the government body that coordinates the evaluation of research activity, established its open access regulation (Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación, n.d.), which mandates that grant recipients must deposit scientific publications in an institutional repository.
Table 2. National-level open science policies in Latin America since 2018. Adapted from Appel et al. (2018) and Heredia (2022).

Within the Latin American context, we have noted a very strong drive towards open science since 2010. At the national level, we are seeing an increasing number of countries having or actively developing open science policies. This is further supported by regional initiatives that aim to further open science like RedCLARA, Central America Higher Education Council (CSUCA), LA Referencia, and SciELO, among others. There is also a strong emphasis on the development of regional and shared infrastructures, for example, a shared Current Research and Information Systems (CRIS), that also portends a future of adoption and monitoring of progress towards open science and shared infrastructure within the region.

Policy developments in the United States

The primary sources of research funding in the United States are government agencies and private philanthropic foundations. There has been significant activity in both sectors, particularly in the past year or two on the federal side, to advance public access to the results of research and open science more generally. In 2023, the US Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) launched the Year of Open Science, with the overall objective of advancing national open science policies. The OSTP and the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) set the stage by drafting a definition of open science:

The principle and practice of making research products and processes available to all, while respecting diverse cultures, maintaining security and privacy, and fostering collaborations, reproducibility, and equity.

— Office of Science and Technology Policy (2023) 

Over the course of the year, federal agencies drafted or updated their public access plans in response to the Nelson memo (discussed in the next section), launched public access policies that were already in development (e.g. the National Institutes of Health (NIH) data management and sharing policy), implemented new open science infrastructures and programs (e.g. the Department of Energy (DOE) unified access point for persistent identifier services, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) five-year Transform to Open Science (TOPS) mission), announced new funding opportunities (National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital Humanities Advancement Grants and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Geosciences Open Science Ecosystem), and more (Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2024).

Recent U.S. federal government public access policy developments

Much of the significant and recent policy development around open science and supporting infrastructure in the United States relates to evolving U.S. Federal government mandates that the results of government-funded research be made widely and publicly available. The 2022 directive (Office of Science and Technology Policy (2022), known informally as the “Nelson memo”) issued by the OSTP is the most recent but not the first such mandate; NIH issued its first public access policy in 2005 (National Institutes of Health, 2005), NSF began requiring data management plans (including data sharing) in grant proposals in 2011 (National Science Foundation, 2011), and the OSTP issued its first multi-agency public access directive to federal agencies in 2013 (the “Holdren memo”, Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2013). The Nelson memo extends the Holdren memo in several important ways: 

  • Eliminating embargoes on the release of research outputs,
  • Extending the policy to cover all federal research funders, not only those with more than $100M USD in extramural research (as was the case with the Holdren memo),
  • Requiring agencies to (eventually) extend their data sharing requirements to all research data, not only those that directly support peer-reviewed publications,
  • Promoting the assignment of persistent identifiers (PIDs) to research outputs and including PIDs for authors and organizations in metadata, and 
  • Making an effort to address concerns related to equity both in participation in the research process[8] and in access to its results.

Agencies with more than $100M in annual research expenditures were given 180 days from the date of the Nelson memo (25 August 2022) to update their public access policies, and agencies with $100M or less in research expenditures were given 360 days to develop new (or extend existing) policies. These new or updated policies were to be submitted to the OSTP and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, with finalized policies published by 31 December 2024, and taking effect not more than one year after publication. These policies are tracked on the U.S. government website Public Access Plans & Guidance (CENDI, n.d.). As of early March 2024, all agencies should have submitted drafts to OSTP and OMB, but policy availability for the agencies listed on the Public Access Plans & Guidance website was incomplete. 

A look at several of the available draft and final policies shows that they are strikingly similar in general terms, although this comes as no great surprise as they were all crafted in response to the Nelson memo. Some of the common elements include deposit of articles (or at the very least, article metadata, with link out to an open access copy hosted elsewhere) to agency-designated repositories or catalogues, a focus on repositories as the preferred means of distributing research data and selection of data repositories that meet the criteria set forth in the National Science and Technology Council’s (2022) “​​Desirable Characteristics of Data Repositories for Federally Funded Research” (when the choice of repository is left to the researcher), allowing some exemptions to sharing (for example in the cases of legal or ethical concerns, proprietary, controlled or classified data, or trade secrets), and allowing “reasonable” costs of compliance to be included in grant proposal budgets.[9] 

A few differences across agency policies stand out:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, 2023) allows an embargo of up to 12 months for publications under very limited circumstances (namely that a co-author has transferred copyright to the publisher).
  • Some agencies are adopting a shift in terminology from “Data Management Plan” to “Data Management and Sharing Plan”, to more strongly emphasize data sharing requirements.
  • Multiple agencies (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ, 2023), United States Department of Agriculture (2023), NASA (2023), NIST (2023), and the United States Geological Survey (U.S. Department of the Interior, 2023)) have well-developed data sharing infrastructure that will meet the needs of many of their funded researchers, while others steer researchers to external repositories. 
  • The NIH (National Institutes of Health, 2023) and NSF (National Science Foundation, 2023) are leading in the area of attempting to ensure equitable access to participate in the research process, even though doing so is not (yet) explicitly required. The policies of both agencies acknowledge the potential for a shift towards article processing charges (APCs) as a means of paying for open access to inequitably impact researchers with inadequate funding and/or small awards, and suggest initial strategies for at least beginning to adjust policy and practice to mitigate the possibility.
  • Most agencies expect to monitor and manage compliance via existing award reporting mechanisms, although some have more mature systems in place than others. Some agencies explicitly mention the possibility of adjusting or withholding funding for non-compliance (e.g. AHRQ, DOE, NIH, NASA, U.S. Census Bureau (2024), USGS).

Many of these policies are still in draft stage, with additional policies to be released, but the overall trend is towards increasing and more immediate access to the results of federally funded research. Substantial questions remain regarding allowable and reasonable costs, as well as how potential changes in how the costs of publishing are paid might impact researchers and research funders.

Implications for open infrastructure

These policy developments have wide-ranging implications for researchers, their institutions, and the research infrastructure they rely on. We share here a few thoughts on what this might mean for open infrastructures that support research and scholarship.

Increased use of some infrastructures is the most obvious consequence of these expanded mandates. We speculated in a recent report (Steinhart & Skinner, 2024) that research data repositories whose sources of revenue do not scale up with an increase in deposits may eventually be faced with sustainability challenges. We might expect the same possibility for other fee-free infrastructures such as preprint services, generalist and institutional repositories that do not charge fees, and platinum open access publishers. Disciplines that are under-served by current available infrastructures will make those gaps more evident, possibly surfacing interesting opportunities to expand existing infrastructure in new directions, or develop entirely new services. Alternatively, particularly for “low-budget” disciplines, some researchers may be faced with mandates that can’t be met using existing infrastructure.

The Nelson memo also directs federal agencies to ensure the results of the research they fund are accessible for machine access and for individuals using assistive technologies. In the case of funders who support their own infrastructure (for example, NIH’s PubMed Central), it is clear where the responsibility lies for making good on this requirement. When researchers rely on independent infrastructure, this mandate potentially breaks down, and it is not at all clear who is responsible for ensuring compliance and where in the research process adapting materials to maximize accessibility should occur. arXiv launched an experimental project to provide an accessible HTML version of TeX/LaTeX submissions (Frankston 2023), a significant step forward in making a piece of critical scholarly infrastructure more accessible, but we can be certain that the cost of achieving this milestone was not insignificant.

Finally, institutions and funders alike will seek ways to monitor and manage compliance. Again, some funders are already better equipped than others to manage this. NIH is one such example, providing institutions with access to their Public Access Compliance Monitor (PACM) system which can be used to track a manuscript’s progress through the process of publication in PubMed Central. Research Information Management and Current Research Information Systems (RIMs and CRISs, respectively) may also aid institutions in tracking outputs and their status. Aggregate sources of information include, for example, the COKI Open Access Dashboard[10] and CHORUS[11]. Whether there are open options beyond these sources and whether they will adequately meet the needs of research stakeholders remains to be seen.

This is a rich space and we cannot do it justice here, and we also plan to release later this year a more comprehensive report on the policy landscape in selected regions.


AfricaConnect3. (2021). Africa and Latin America agree to closer collaboration around open science. AfricaConnect3 | Welcome to the AfricaConnect3 Website. 

African Union Commission. (2014). Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024. 

African Union Commission. (2015). Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. African Union. 

Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación. (n.d.). Reglamento de Acceso Abierto. 

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2023). AHRQ Public Access to Federally Funded Research. 

Anonymous. (1999). The Santo Domingo Declaration. Second ACP Summit, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,. 

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  5. First by Horizon 2020, then Horizon Europe, which is the European Commission’s current research and innovation funding programme until 2027. More about Horizon Europe at
  8. Agencies are not tasked with addressing the issue of equitable participation in research immediately; rather the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Open Science is charged with overall coordination among agencies and with considering “measures to reduce inequities in publishing of, and access to, federally funded research and data, especially among individuals from underserved backgrounds and those who are early in their careers” (OSTP 2022).
  9. What is meant by “reasonable” is not clearly specified, and a current area of research for IOI. We discuss this further in Steinhart and Skinner (2024).