ICOR comments on the NIH Public Access Plan: Evidence, convergence and new incentives

The NIH issued a Request for Information in February 2023 on its NIH Public Access Plan. The plan “provides a roadmap for how NIH proposes to accelerate access to scholarly publications and scientific data and will help ensure these research products are findable and equitably accessible to support further scientific discovery.” The RFI calls for feedback from interested stakeholders to help shape the plan further.

During the NIH virtual public listening session on the plan, on April 12, 2023, Kristen Ratan, cofounder of ICOR, called for three collective action areas:

  1. Building an evidence base for open
  2. Creating convergence on best practices and standards
  3. Incentivizing open activities during funding and career advancement

Incentivizing Collaborative and Open Research (ICOR) is building a collaborative research culture by strategizing, connecting and implementing projects that seek to change the status quo of competition throughout the research cycle. ICOR is building a body of evidence and library of best practices and case studies on the impact of projects that facilitate collaborative open research. ICOR is fiscally sponsored by its partner Rapid Science


While there is a bit of evidence that open access publishing has increased the visibility of articles, with greater citation rates and page views, overall, we don’t really know the impact of open research (including data sharing) on issues of equitable access, greater collaboration between researchers, and better outcomes for humanity. Intuitively, we believe that opening research findings will lead to more inclusion, equity, reuse and reproducibility, but we don’t have a lot of data to support that. We need to study the impact of open and learn more about which approaches and practices work best. Incentivizing Collaborative Open Research (ICOR) is one of several initiatives conducting research on open research and building a body of evidence. NIH can materially support research on open research as a field of study so that we can understand the consequences of policy decisions, how best to implement, track compliance and understand the impact of open.

Below is the transcript of Kristen’s remarks.


I’d like to call for intentional convergence on best practices and emerging standards. The open research community has built infrastructure and best practices over the past 20 years with regard to persistent identifiers, metadata, and reporting. Even so, methods of tracking open access publishing and data sharing are not consistent. With agencies, funders, and institutions counting and measuring open activities differently, we won’t be able to make apples to apples comparisons and set reliable targets. This means it will be difficult to assess inequities and barriers to open research and track progress. 


Ultimately, we need to reward the behaviors we want to see. To increase openness, funders and institutions need to actively incentivize it. For funders, this means making funding decisions based on open practices and including them in renewal applications and progress reports. For institutions, this means changing hiring, reappointment, promotion and tenure guidelines. There is a surprising amount of inertia coming from funders and institutions given the power that they wield. If we don’t actively change the carrots and sticks, we won’t create the culture needed for a sea-change toward open.