New Federal Policies Will Require Public Access to Research   

Over the next several years, researchers receiving federal grants will need to comply with new requirements that the products of their research, including publications and unrestricted data, be made publicly available. Embargos may be available for delaying the release of publications, typically for 12 months. These requirements stem from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s 2013 memo entitled “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research.” The memo directs federal agencies with over $100 million in annual extramural R&D budgets to develop plans to make the publications resulting from federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication, as well as to make the data resulting from federally-funded research publicly accessible. [an up-to-date list of agencies who have released public access plans can be found here]

The Office of Science and Technology memo was released in response to increased calls for expanded public access to the results of federally-funded research and to better track the return on investment of research funding. In addition to expanding access, the public availability of funded publications and data will likely expand the visibility of researchers and institutions and promote collaboration among institutions and disciplines.

Federal funding agencies started rolling out their implementation plans in 2014. As of May 2015, fifteen agencies (including NSF, DOE, and DOD) have released initial plans for sharing publications and data. No two plans are the same. However, there are several similarities across agencies. All agencies are either adopting existing repositories (such as the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Central) or building new repositories (such as the Department of Energy’s Pages) to house publications. In addition, all agencies now require data management plans for all newly funded projects and provide guidance for making the data underlying publications publicly available. The implementation timeline for agencies varies; while the Department of Energy began its implementation process in October of 2014, NSF’s requirement will take effect after January 2016.

Several groups on campus are monitoring the release of the new public access policies, including the Office of Research, Fondren Library, and Rice’s Research Data Management Team.  Those interested in learning more about the Office of Science and Technology Policy memo, or who have questions about specific policies, are encouraged to email publicaccesshelp@rice.edu.

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