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A rumored U.S. executive order focusing on public access to federally funded research is ruffling feathers in the scholarly publishing world.

The White House open-access policy would reportedly make all federally funded research immediately free for the public to read -- a huge shift in policy that could have a dramatic impact on the subscription-based business models of major academic publishers.

Though some federally funded research is made immediately free for all to read, much is still published behind paywalls and is only made openly available to the public after a 12-month embargo period.

The American Association of Publishers was quick to criticize the rumored policy, publishing a letter to President Trump signed by over 135 publishers, companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We have learned that the Administration may be preparing to step into the private marketplace and force the immediate free distribution of journal articles financed and published by organizations in the private sector, including many non-profits. This would effectively nationalize the valuable American intellectual property that we produce and force us to give it away to the rest of the world for free,” said the AAP letter. “We urge you to oppose this proposed policy.”

Thom Tillis, a Republican senator who is chairman of the intellectual property subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also wrote a letter opposing the policy. “I am concerned this policy under consideration would undermine incentives for journal [publishers] to invest in the publishing and archiving of scientific journal articles. As a consequence, this policy could diminish the high quality of scientific and other scholarly research in the United States,” he wrote.

The text of the policy has not been shared, but it is thought to have originated from the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Scholarly Kitchen suggested the policy has already been circulated to federal funding agencies for comment.

Not everyone thinks the policy is a bad idea. SPARC, an open-access advocacy group, issued a statement saying it would “wholeheartedly endorse updating current policy and eliminating the unnecessary 12-month waiting period for the public to gain access to the outputs of taxpayer-funded scientific research.”

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