US funders meet to discuss cultural change in open science

    In January, Frontiers hosted a discussion forum for United States-based research funders to explore the challenges and opportunities funders face in supporting and incentivizing open science. Representatives from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Alzheimer’s Association came together to address three major topics:

    • The role of funders in leading open access
    • Prominent, practical, and promising examples of open access
    • New initiatives to define and shape open access

    The parallels with European funders were also discussed, in follow-up to a similar funders’ session Frontiers hosted in spring 2023.

    The US funders in January’s session were asked how the OSTP Nelson Memo – the August 2022 guidance on widening public access to federally funded research – has changed the way they operate and view scholarly communication. They appreciate that the Memo supports policies that the funders themselves have suggested and incentivized for some time, and they acknowledge that federal policies can support more open science frameworks, many of which (such as open access) are already mainstream.

    Funders play a significant role in driving the cultural change required to fulfill the visions of open science generally and of the Nelson Memo in particular. Funders have a responsibility to understand their communities’ needs, particularly in areas that might be less developed, such as open data, open protocols, and other types of outputs. There is a generational distinction as well; funders noted the differences between established principal investigators and emerging ones, along with traditional incentive structures.

    The cultural shift plays out in other ways for funders. In terms of research assessment, funders see a general trend to move away from quantitative metrics and toward a more holistic approach to assessing researchers.

    These shifting views of assessment have led funders to diversify their views of appropriate outputs for grant funding. A peer-reviewed article arrives in a late stage of the research cycle, whereas pre-prints, open datasets, and other sharable materials are seen as increasingly valuable by the funders and their communities. But how to share these kinds of outputs and how to incentivize their communities to share them in a timely manner is a challenge for the funders.

    As an open access publisher with the mission to make all science open, Frontiers emphasizes building relationships with research funders who are important strategic actors with the power to accelerate the transition to open science. Frontiers is committed to ensuring that we provide the necessary support to researchers, authors, editors, other stakeholders and, of course, the funders themselves. As part of this commitment, we strive to provide fair, high-quality, and tailored solutions to funders who want to enter an institutional partnership with us.

    If you would like to learn more about this or future events or discuss our partnership models, please contact or visit our institutional partnerships website.