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The New OSTP Policy & What it Means

Posted in UC3

Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) responded to calls for broader access to federally funded research. I was curious as to whether this policy had any teeth, so I actually read the official memorandum. Here I summarize and have a few thoughts.

The overall theme of the document is best represented by this phrase:

…wider availability of peer-reviewed publications and scientific data in digital formats will create innovative economic markets for services related to curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization.

OSTP must have fielded early concerns  from journal publishers, because several times in the memo there were sentiments like this:

The Administration also recognizes that publishers provide valuable services, including the coordination of peer review, that are essential for ensuring the high quality and integrity of many scholarly publications. It is critical that these services continue to be made available.

And now we get to the big change:

Federal agencies investing in research and development (more than $100 million in annual expenditures) must have clear and coordinated policies for increasing public access to research products

Each of the agency plans is required to outline strategies to:

  • leverage existing archives and partnerships with journals
  • improve public’s ability to locate and access data
  • provide optimized search, archival, and dissemination features that encourage accessibility and interoperability
  • notify researchers of their new obligations for increasing access to research products (e.g., guidance, conditions for funding)
  • measure and enforce researcher compliance

Draft plans for each agency are due within 6 months of the memo. This is all great news for open science advocates: agencies must require researchers to comply with open data mandates and help them do it.

Hopefully the teeth in this new OSTP memo won't be slowed down by its tiny arms. From Flickr by Hammerhead27
Hopefully the teeth in this new OSTP memo won’t be slowed down by its tiny arms. From Flickr by Hammerhead27

The memo then outlines what agency plans should include, breaking the guidelines into those for scientific articles, and those for data.

Scientific Articles:

New agency plans must include provisions for open access to scientific articles reporting on research. The memo provides two main guidelines related to this:

  • public access to research articles (including the ability to read, download, and analyze digitally) should happen within about 12 months post-publication
  • there should be free, full public access to the research article’s metadata, in standard format

Scientific Data:

First, the memo defines data:

…digital recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings including data sets used to support scholarly publications, but does not include laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer review reports, communications with colleagues, or physical objects, such as laboratory specimens.

It then sets the following guidelines. The agency plans should:

  1. Maximize free public access while keeping in mind privacy/confidentiality, proprietary interests, and that not all data should be kept forever
  2. Ensure researchers create data management plans
  3. Allow costs for data preservation and access in proposal budgets
  4. Ensure evaluation of data management plan merits
  5. Ensure researchers comply with their data management plans
  6. Promote data deposition into public repositories
  7. Encourage public/private partnerships to ensure interoperability
  8. Develop approaches for identification and attribution of datasets
  9. Educate folks about data stewardship
  10. Assess long-term needs for repositories and infrastructure

This list got me excited: there might actually be some teeth in #4 and #5 above. We all know that the NSF’s data management plan requirements has been rather weak up to now, but this implies that there will now be more teeth to the requirement.

I’m also quite pleased to see #6: data should be deposited in public repositories. The icing on the cake is #8: datasets need identification and attribution. Overall, my feelings about this list can be summed up by one word – hooray!

Official versions of related documents:

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