Skip to content

Updates to the Gates Foundation Open Access Policy for 2025

Imagine you’re a scientist doing research you hope will improve the health of people in your region. Working on a particular question—maybe having to do with tuberculosis (TB), or maternal mortality, or malaria—you come across the title of a scientific research paper that you think may have some answers. But that paper is locked behind the science journal’s paywall, and the price for access is much too high for your lab.

When I was doing HIV/TB research many years ago in Vietnam, I frequently encountered this issue, and it continues to be a problem today. Emmanuel Mugisha, director of PATH’s work for the Typhoid Vaccine Acceleration Consortium project and advisor on vaccines and immunizations, based in Uganda, says researchers in low- and middle-income countries face these kinds of roadblocks daily.

We face a similar problem when it comes to publication of research supported by our foundation. After funding years of research that we hope can one day save lives, we’re excited to share the results widely. But many scientific journals, particularly the so-called “high-impact journals,” will publish outside of their paywall only if you pay a hefty fee. “That’s a big hindrance,” Mugisha says.

Journal subscriptions can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars a year for individual access and multiple millions of dollars for institutional access. Fees for publishing outside a paywall, known as article processing charges (APCs), can be as much as US$12,000 for a single article. Even the most privileged institutions struggle to afford both access to and publication in the large number of journals globally.

It’s even more frustrating because governments and foundations fund much of the world’s health-related research and journal articles are peer-reviewed by scientists for free, yet many journals continue to limit access to research findings through restrictive policies. It is small wonder that academic publishing is one of the most profitable industries in the world!

When researchers can see what others have learned, they can build on it. That’s how scientific advances are made, and that’s how the world can solve its health challenges most quickly.

“Everybody benefits quite a lot when access is freely available,” Mugisha says. As someone who has worked for over 20 years on malaria, TB, HIV, viral hepatitis, antimicrobial resistance, and COVID-19, I couldn’t agree more.

Our foundation’s refreshed Open Access Policy

For over a decade, our foundation has championed transparency, access, and equity in scholarly publishing by working with publishers and journals to develop more open and accessible research publishing practices. But our quest for a truly equitable and inclusive scholarly publishing ecosystem remains incomplete. Today, we’re announcing a refreshed policy for our grantees that we hope will help foundation-supported breakthroughs reach the field in the fastest and fairest way possible.

At its core, the policy will:

  • End the foundation’s payment of individual article publishing fees such as APCs—paving the way for more equitable publishing models
  • Require grantees to share preprints of their articles—breaking free from journal constraints while prioritizing access to research and preserving grantee publishing choices


Preprints, which are full drafts of research papers that are shared publicly prior to peer review, aren’t a new concept. Some fields, such as astronomy, are built around a culture of open access, including preprints. During the COVID-19 pandemic, preprints flourished as researchers, governments, and others raced to develop vaccines and therapeutics.

Heather Joseph, executive director of an open access advocacy organization called SPARC, says the extraordinarily fast development of COVID vaccines and therapeutics “is one of the single most visible and visceral expressions of how openness works.” Yet, as she points out, as the crisis began to wane so did the number of preprints.

Joseph’s organization argues that the current model of scientific communication, which focuses on publication in what are perceived as “prestigious” journals, despite their limits on access, doesn’t help anyone but the journals.

Accelerating the trend toward accessible research

Consider this: Each year since we implemented our original Open Access Policy in 2015, we have paid around US$6 million in APCs to ensure that our grantees’ research is published outside of paywalls. We’ve become convinced that this money could be better spent elsewhere to accelerate progress for people.

We realize that this policy change won’t remove all hurdles to open access. But after conducting considerable research into this issue, including discussions with our grantees and with other scientists and advocates, we believe it’s one more step in the right direction.

As Joseph says, “Knowledge sharing is a human right.”

Our hope is that this refreshed policy, which will take effect in January 2025, will help accelerate the trend toward true open access, and that even more organizations will join us in this effort.