The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), one of the largest research philanthropies, said today it will begin to require its scientists to make research papers in which they played a leading role immediately free to read. HHMI now requires open access within 12 months of publication.
After the policy takes effect in January 2022, the move could block the institute’s scientists, who include some of the biggest names in biomedical research, from publishing in top-tier, subscription-only journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science. Work by more than 4700 staff members, including 256 investigators and nearly 1700 postdoctoral researchers at laboratories across the United States, could be affected, HHMI says. But if elite journals continue to join the movement toward open-access publishing, HHMI authors may gain new options for compliance.
HHMI spends “an enormous amount of money supporting biomedical research”—$763 million in 2019—“and we feel strongly that it’s critical that the information is rapidly disseminated so that it can be reproduced and built upon,” says the institute’s president, biochemist Erin O’Shea. Like HHMI, U.S. federal science agencies require that research they fund be made free, but only after 12 months. “The delays … are a problem for science,” O’Shea says. “It’s not helping to speed up the discovery process.”