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AHRQ, NASA, USDA Release Plans for Public Access to Funded Research

image © Wyn Van Devanter

Three US Government agencies—the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)—recently released their plans for increasing public access to federally funded research in response to the 2013 White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) directive. The OSTP memorandum directed federal agencies with R&D budgets of $100 million or more to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released “AHRQ Public Access to Federally Funded Research.” The AHRQ policy, effective October 2015, applies to scientific publications and data in digital format. Implementation will be prospective and will not apply to publications or digital data sets arising from AHRQ-sponsored grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, or intramural research projects funded prior to publication of the final AHRQ public access policy. Grantees will be required to submit the final, peer-reviewed journal manuscript to PubMed Central. The AHRQ policy states that unclassified, digital data resulting from AHRQ funding “should be stored and publicly accessible to search, retrieve, and analyze. For sharing of data in digital format, all AHRQ-funded researchers will be required to include a data management plan for sharing final research data in digital format, or state why data sharing is not possible.”

The “NASA Plan: Increasing Access to the Results of Scientific Research” (PDF), like the AHRQ plan, covers both final, peer-reviewed, journal manuscripts and digital data and NASA has decided that PubMed Central best meets its needs as a repository for manuscripts. With regards to digital data, the plan states, “NASA has a long‐standing culture of promoting the full and open sharing of data with the research communities, private industry, academia, and the general public. This plan extends NASA’s culture of open data access to all NASA-funded research.” NASA will require data-management plans that describe how data sharing and preservation will enable validation of research results and, if not, how such results could be otherwise validated. The data-management plans must also describe how research data will be made publicly accessible. NASA will also permit bulk downloads as an acceptable use. NASA is targeting October 2015 as the goal for full implementation.

The USDA’s “Implementation Plan to Increase Public Access to Results of USDA-Funded Scientific Research” (PDF) provides a detailed roadmap as to how, over several years, the Department will comply with the OSTP memo. Effective January 1, 2016, USDA grantees will be required to deposit final, peer-reviewed manuscripts in the USDA public access archive system, PubAg. The plan states, “The USDA will ensure easy search and download of scholarly publications resulting from USDA funds without charge no later than 12 months following publication.” In addition, in 2017, the Department will revise this policy based on consultation with stakeholders “to continuously improve the public access policy.” With regards to digital data, USDA intends to again take a phased approach and, like other agencies, will require data-management plans. A very positive feature of USDA’s plan is the focus on outreach, education, and training. The authors of the plan note: “public access to federally supported research data is a new concept for many USDA science professionals, awardees, and other stakeholders. USDA needs to provide training, education, and workforce development related to data management, analysis, storage, preservation, and stewardship, in coordination with other agencies and the private sector.”

Links to the federal agency plans and policies that have been released to date are being collected on the ARL website.

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