Ian Mulvany

March 26, 2021

Biden indicates a step change to research funding is on the horizon

In his press conference yesterday Biden discussed a significant increase in funding to R&D and life sciences in the US. He talked about moving to 2% of GDP (up from a current level of 0.7%) which would mean an extra $418B. 

He talked about how the US is being out-invested in many areas by China, and the need to effectively create the future in order to own it. 

Within our ecosystem of scholarly communication, the ultimate ground source of revenues and incentives comes mostly from government, and of all of those contributions the US dominates, so even if, as Tim Stears points out, the funding level does not get to 2% of GDP, this is still the most significant indicator of how our industry might evolve over the coming years that I've seen. 

Here is a tweet that has the clip:


We should also expect at some point a Biden administration pushing for open access, open data and open science, as these are areas that Biden has discussed in the past.

We know the OSTP was on the verge of releasing a wide ranging open access mandate, but that the timing of this initiative clashed badly with the chaos the engulfed Washington in the latter months of the Trump presidency. 

Will they pick this up again? Will the shake out of leadership at OSTP need to finish running through first? Will that initiative be seen as too closely aligned with the previous administration, or will it retain enough independence in form to move forward? Will we see something substantially different? 

I think two things are bankable. First up significant rises in US research funding have stemmed from adversarial dynamics, first through WWII, and then the Cold War. Now its looking like the US is really trying to positing itself more openly in competition with China, and so an increase in research funding seems inevitable. 

Secondly the future is going to be an open research future, because this is a ratchet that is hard to scale back from. 

These two things together should mean that there is good strategic value in moving publishing to work well within open research ecosystems, and that there are good indicators that there should be routes to sustainability for doing so.