Taylor & Francis response to the OSTP’s RFI on access to the outputs of Federally funded research 

In February, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a request for information about ‘public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications, data and code resulting from Federally funded research’. Our response below outlines Taylor & Francis’ support for a fully-funded policy which increases the proportion of research outputs that are immediately available.

You can also read the response submitted by F1000 Research Ltd along with correspondence sent by our CEO, Annie Callanan, to the Director of the OSTP, Dr Kelvin Droegemeier.

FAO: Dr. Lisa Nichols, Assistant Director for Academic Engagement, OSTP

Sent by email to: publicaccess@ostp.eop.gov

Re:  OSTP RFI on enhancing access to the outputs of Federally funded research

Dear Dr. Nichols,

Taylor & Francis is an international academic publisher, which provides more than 2,700 journals to researchers and scholars, and publishes over 5,000 new books each year, and we have a backlist of more than 120,000 book titles. During 2019, 65,000 US authors chose to publish over 30,000 research articles in our journals. We employ over 400 colleagues across the United States, including in Boca Raton, New York and Philadelphia. We publish 800 journals in the US, partnering with more than 150 American learned societies and associations.

We are entirely supportive of a public access policy for Federally funded research. We believe that Open Access has huge potential to provide the broadest possible access to research, and support OSTP’s public access aim of advancing the quality of research especially in fields where immediacy is vital, for example in the natural sciences and medicine. We are supportive of a policy that increases the proportion of research outputs that are immediately available for any interested party to access, while ensuring that adequate funding is in place to support their creation, dissemination and curation on an Open basis. A quarter of US-authored articles that Taylor & Francis has published over the past three years are already openly available, and we will increase this proportion in a sustainable way and support researchers to share more of their research faster, optimizing the dissemination and impact of quality research.

We need a stable and predictable research funding model especially during this time of huge impact on the economic ecosystem (as referenced in the recent Congressional Research Service Report). We therefore urge OSTP to proceed in a thoughtful, staged and collaborative manner to build on the United States’ research excellence, and to support the critically valuable service that publishers provide in partnership with learned societies and researchers to substantiate and validate research knowledge.

We have provided brief responses to your questions below. Taylor & Francis is keen to engage with OSTP as policies are developed around these aims. We will be sending a follow up letter to this RFI response, highlighting our experience in working with our partner F1000Research and offering an opportunity to share our practical insight to ensure a successful public access policy for Federally funded research.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Sutton, Director of Open Research, Taylor & Francis Journals

Qu1. What current limitations exist to the effective communication of research outputs (publications, data, and code) and how might communications evolve to accelerate public access while advancing the quality of scientific research? What are the barriers to and opportunities for change?

In our view the key challenges around scholarly communication relate to: access to quality research outputs; the availability and distribution of funding for immediate access; rewards and incentives for researchers; and a focus on one aspect of the research cycle (publication) rather than the whole research cycle (or big picture). We outline each issue below and suggest ways that OSTP might address them.

Access to Quality Research Outputs Has Improved but Requires More Investment

Thanks to technological developments, we have the ability to access knowledge from almost anywhere in the world. Publishers have invested in moving resources online that were previously only available in print – indeed, the Taylor & Francis  platform hosts over 4 million research outputs (and counting). We have invested significantly in making research outputs findable, from enriching content through tagging and metadata so it is no longer a flat paper-based artefact, to helping users access relevant content through search engine optimization. Our platform is in the top 500 sites visited in the US (Alexa ranking #428 on 28 February 2020).

Despite the successes thus far, more work is needed to ensure effective access routes and models to quality research outputs. This was shown in feedback to a 2019 Taylor & Francis researcher survey, where 88% of researchers agreed that there was value in anyone being able to access their research, but only 41% agreed that research was already available to those who needed access (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Researcher views on access to research (T&F 2019 Researcher Survey)

We have been working to improve access through:

  • Our Open vision: acquisition of leading open access (OA) publishers and platforms F1000Research, Co-action and Dove Medical Press; conversion of over 50 journals to a Gold-only OA model; encouragement of Open Research practices, such as the sharing of research data to FAIR principles through our data sharing policy; investment of millions of dollars in developing article level workflows to support OA, including guiding researchers to compliant options and providing better information to institutions on their faculty’s output; creation of new models to help institutions shift their outputs to Open while retaining access to global content.
  • Driving industry initiatives such as GetFTR, which links searchers to the best version of an article, including open access content, and provides access options for those who do not have a subscription.
  • Trialing an eReader on our platform that syncs content across devices, improves access to content, and also allows readers to share content with colleagues.
  • Full support of the NLM’s Emergency Access Initiative (EIA) and the Wellcome-coordinated initiative which supports the principles set out in the 2016 Statement on data sharing in public health emergencies.
  • Our commitment to ensuring that the World Health Organization has rapid access to emerging findings that could aid the global response to public health emergencies. We have reacted rapidly to the Covid-19 crisis to make research outputs freely available and to support the LitCovid portal.

We also have been working to improve the accessibility of content: offering a text to speech tool on our platform to support researchers with visual impairments; publishing material in fonts and formats that are more accessible to readers with learning difficulties, and so on. We encourage OSTP to advocate not only access to, but accessibility of, content for all readers by supporting immediate access to the final published research output.

Adequate Funding Is Needed to Ensure Quality

The openness of scholarly communication depends on funding for the fair payment of value added, so that we can continue to do our job of substantiating, valuing and validating knowledge. Now more than ever research outputs must be trusted and reliable. Publishers such as Taylor & Francis champion rigorous, quality assured content –continually reviewing and updating guidance to editors and researchers with respect to best practice in research conduct, ethics, peer review and publication. We also invest in tools and services to check for falsification of research findings, including image manipulation and plagiarism. This is not without cost.

Rewards and Incentives Should Align with Open Research Goals

Policymakers play a vital role in encouraging a change in research behavior – through funding open research practices and incentivizing these behaviors. Supporting more openness and sharing throughout the research cycle will improve the transparency, rigor, efficiency and hence quality of research and incentivizing and supporting researchers could help retain academic talent in the US.

OSTP Should Not Overlook the ‘Big Picture’

To effect systemic change in research and publication culture, and to increase impact and relevancy of research, change must not just focus on the last stage of the research process (publishing) but must encourage and support open research practices throughout the research cycle, from publishing results sooner, to sharing more than just the final written narrative of the research endeavor. OSTP should focus on the ‘big picture’ – incentivizing researchers to share and act openly at all stages of the research cycle (with relevant guidance and training), championing new forms of research output, and supporting creation of infrastructure to better connect funding to outcomes of research. This will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire research endeavor from grant to final publication.

Qu2. What more can Federal agencies do to make tax-payer funded research results, including peer-reviewed author manuscripts, data, and code funded by the Federal Government, freely and publicly accessible in a way that minimizes delay, maximizes access, and enhances usability? How can the Federal Government engage with other sectors to achieve these goals?

Access to, and the creation of, trusted and reliable knowledge is essential in these times. We are convinced that the current Open Access challenge is rooted in a funding flow issue, rather than a policy one. Publishers such as Taylor & Francis serve the research community by providing services that are essential to the creation of trusted research outputs. These services include but are not limited to: editorial development (to ensure that journals continue to contribute to their fields and advance research); author and peer reviewer recruitment, training and support; support to learned societies; ongoing investment in technology and infrastructure; contribution to industry-level standards that improve quality and interlink the scholarly communication record; and long-term hosting and preservation. These services are essential to the advancement of quality research; with publishers acting as independent bodies, publishing research across all disciplines, from basic to applied research. Without these services this trusted content would not exist.

As publishers, we respond to both the market and our customers, and we can and will adapt to support the services our stakeholders need. This is our modus operandi and time and time again we have proven our ability to adapt quickly.

To minimize delay, we make content available earlier on in its life, including working with Bioarxiv on a pilot to make submissions to our journals openly available at point of submission (as preprints), and by supporting the early publication of Accepted Manuscripts. We also link to data, code and materials hosted in repositories and on sites such as Figshare. Furthermore, we are increasingly encouraging researchers to share material earlier on in their research process. We recommend that OSTP focuses on the entire research cycle, and incentivizes researchers to share findings beyond those of the traditional final research output (including but not limited to recognising a much broader range of outputs and activities including data and code, null/negative outputs, and peer review contributions).

To maximize access, we have responded to funder priorities and have grown an Open Access publishing model.  It is a model we continue to invest in and believe in.  From 2016 to 2019, we more than doubled the number of articles published on an Open Access basis. Globally, more than 13 percent of the articles we publish annually are now Open[1].  In the US, too, our OA output has almost doubled from 2016 to 2019[2].  Additionally, we make content widely available through the initiatives outlined in Q1, as well as: through open access; through arrangements with developing countries where access to content is free or heavily discounted; and by providing content to third party aggregators.  We also offer Diamond Open Access options in partnership with societies and funders – allowing publication options to researchers without them bearing direct costs, reducing administrative effort and complexity for all stakeholders. We see embargoed Green OA as another means to open up access to content; however Green OA is not the means to achieve the long term transition to a more open research environment with immediate access to content as it is not a self-sustaining model (owing its existence to subscription-funded infrastructure and services).

Regarding usability, we offer Creative Commons licensing on our Gold OA content that clearly outlines how third parties can use research outputs. Funding and resourcing from OSTP to make the final version of record of research outputs openly available will help to maximize usability of Federally funded research outputs.

As noted above, opening up access should be allied with a focus on accessibility. As well as supporting the initiatives outlined above around ensuring formats are accessible to all readers, we advise OSTP to incentivize and support accessibility in the form of public engagement activities. We would be delighted to work with you in these efforts; we already work with Sense about Science to offer guidance to early career researchers on peer review, building their career and public engagement and created the popular How Researchers Changed the World podcast (14,000 listens) and learning programme (3,000 registrants).

Ultimately, excellence motivates us and our objective is to continually increase the quality and integrity of the research that we publish.

Qu3. How would American science leadership and American competitiveness benefit from immediate access to these resources? What are potential challenges and effective approaches for overcoming them? Analyses that weigh the trade-offs of different approaches and models, especially those that provide data, will be particularly helpful.

A robust landscape of American learned societies and research communities provide the foundation of American global leadership across all research disciplines. Working together, these groups, alongside universities, research funders, and research institutions, set the agendas in their respective disciplines, foster collaborations, and are major drivers of research integrity, diversity, innovation, and economic success for American researchers.

The publishing activities of learned societies are not only a highly visible platform to advance research progress through the dissemination of quality, peer-reviewed research, but also a tangible revenue-generating output to support critical general and discipline-specific activities and initiatives. We work closely with these communities, and we recognize the importance of timely access to trusted research. Timely access, however, cannot be rushed at the expense of quality.

We recognize and promote the fact that within this landscape of publishers of all types, learned societies, research communities, universities, and research institutions, must continue to innovate in their fields. With the revenues from publishing, research communities are already experimenting and developing new approaches to data sharing and open research (including preprint servers). There is no global single approach for all disciplines and a degree of flexibility must remain an essential part of a flourishing innovative research ecosystem.

Much of the development of scholarly communication has occurred within a scientific ecosystem that is self-directed, self-regulating, and reflects a common understanding and collaborative approach around appropriate open data practices. In the field of Earth and Space Sciences, for example, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has successfully built a coalition of stakeholders (Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences, COPDESS) to develop open research standards through the Enabling FAIR Data project. The AGU, publishers (including Taylor & Francis), learned societies, researchers, funders, institutions, repositories, and others are voluntarily working together to ensure that the research data underpinning tens of thousands of publications in these fields are openly shared according to common FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable) principles. Similar efforts to build standards as well as infrastructure to share research data are taking place across many disciplines through the Research Data Alliance (RDA), a worldwide grass roots community with over 10,000 participants. Research data and other outputs vary across research disciplines, hence the importance of co-creating FAIR standards and infrastructure to enable sharing with the involvement of relevant stakeholders. Notably, these efforts are taking place in the absence of mandates and as the result of collaboration at all levels from grassroots level, to top level policymakers within funders and institutions.

There are opportunities for the Federal government to play a role in supporting these communities and practices to develop further. Consider, the National Science Foundation’s Ten Big Ideas initiative and its mission “to identify and support emerging opportunities for U.S. leadership.” Through this effort, the NSF emphasized the promise of enhanced interdisciplinary and convergent research around the “grand challenges of today”. This incentivizes researchers to merge ideas and build research teams from a wide range of fields. It “builds and supports creative partnerships and the creative thinking needed to address complex problems,” partnerships across subject lines that may not have developed without the conditions created by an NSF grant. This approach can also deliver for open research through investing in pilots, further exploration of the research ecosystem, and other initiatives that incentivize stakeholders to come together and learn from the results. Publishers and learned societies also support the development of communities and research within a field; Taylor & Francis is more than happy to support OSTP in future pilots that build on this work.

To support this cross-stakeholder demand and innovation-fostered creativity, Federal research policy mandates must provide for adequate and dependable funding for open access publishing models. Without Federal support in place, innovation could be stymied as even greater disparities open up between disciplines and institutions, especially research-intensive institutions which may find costs rising in a fully Open world. Policymaking must be considered and based upon consensus across stakeholders. Careful planning, rather than a rushed move towards a more open research system avoids any unintended impacts on innovation for US researchers and research institutions. We understand that similar points have been raised by other stakeholders, including from members of Congress who have called for a clear process and stakeholder inputs to ensure that there is no negative fallout of any policy for American research, researchers or competitiveness. Given the current crisis in which we find ourselves, any change to a complex (and increasingly fragile) ecosystem must have support from all stakeholders.

Within many research disciplines, there is a strong drive for open research among all stakeholders already, but deeper analysis is required to understand where the funding will come from to support an infrastructure that ensures the continued high quality and integrity of the published results of Federally funded research. The trailblazing work of F1000Research (recently added to our portfolio) is rethinking research by combining the opportunities offered by technology with a passion for how research can be validated and shared. We are now able to address the challenges around Open Access and Open Research in a much more creative manner. We, and our partner F1000Research, would be delighted to work with OSTP on pilot projects to investigate and develop best practice with regard to funding and implementation of a public access mandate.

Qu4. Any additional information that might be considered for Federal policies related to public access to peer-reviewed author manuscripts, data, and code resulting from Federally supported research.

We recommend that OSTP revisit the submission by STM to their recent RFI on the Research Environment. In closing, we would reiterate our recommendations for OSTP:

  • Ensure that appropriate funding and funding flows are in place to achieve policy aims
  • Support and training for researchers: crucial in driving American research excellence and advancing the quality and reliability of research. This includes support and incentivization for open research behaviors – including credit for null / negative results, replication studies, sharing data, etc.
  • Accessibility as well as access – achieved by supporting immediate access to the validated, rich, trusted version of record.
  • Encouraging change throughout the research cycle, not just (at the point of) publication.


[1] 5.5% in 2016 to 13% in 2019; Global OA published article count was approx. 7,700 in 2016 and 17,100 in 2019

[2] US OA published article count was approx. 700 in 2016 and 1,400 in 2019

Further reading