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National Science Foundation Releases Plan for Public Access to NSF-Funded Research

image © Wyn Van Devanter

Today, March 18, 2015, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) released, “NSF’s Public Access Plan: Today’s Data, Tomorrow’s Discoveries—Increasing Access to the Results of Research Funded by the National Science Foundation” (PDF). The detailed and thorough plan presents how NSF and the researchers it funds will meet the requirements of the February 2013 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum on enhancing public access to federally funded research.

NSF is collaborating with the US Department of Energy (DOE) in making NSF-funded, peer-reviewed journal articles—either final, accepted manuscripts or the version of record—publicly available. NSF-funded researchers will be required to deposit their peer-reviewed articles and juried conference papers in DOE PAGES (Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science) in PDF/A format and then report that deposit has occurred to NSF through annual and final project reports. NSF employees will also be required to deposit peer-reviewed articles and juried papers in PAGES. Future expansions of the NSF public access plan may designate other repository services in addition to PAGES.

Voluntary submission will be available by the end of calendar year 2015; submission will be mandatory for articles and juried conference proceedings resulting from proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 2016. Publications resulting from NSF-funded research will be required to:

  • be deposited in a public access compliant repository designated by NSF;
  • be available for download, reading, and analysis free of charge no later than 12 months after initial publication;
  • possess a minimum set of machine-readable metadata elements in a metadata record to be made available free of charge upon initial publication;
  • be managed to ensure long-term preservation; and
  • be reported in annual and final reports during the period of the award with a unique persistent identifierthat provides links to the full text of the publication as well as other metadata elements.

These articles and conference papers will be publicly accessible following a 12-month embargo. If a publisher fails to make an article or conference paper publicly accessible at 12 months, DOE will make the final, accepted manuscript publicly accessible via PAGES.

Digital data that result from NSF-funded research remain subject to NSF’s 2011 Data Management Plan (DMP). NSF states that data that underlie a journal article or juried conference paper should be deposited and publicly available in “an appropriate repository.” NSF also states that, “all data resulting from the research funded by the award, whether or not the data support a publication, should be deposited at the appropriate repository as explained in the DMP.” This requirement applies to proposals submitted as of January 2016. DMPs are required at the time of proposal submission and NSF’s submission system will not accept any proposal that does not include a DMP.

NSF will require grantee institutions to “ensure that authors of articles and papers that fall within the scope of this plan deposit copies of the author’s final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript of version of record in the PDF/A standard in a repository maintained by DOE.”

NSF intends to permit bulk downloading via PAGES “while protecting the integrity of the scientific record from unauthorized redistribution of scholarly content.” DOE currently has a download limit and also relies on fair use to allow others to engage in limited downloading.

NSF views the implementation of its plan as “incremental”—stating that the plan will take several years to fully roll out—and envisions adding other partners such as CHORUS and SHARE and repository services beyond DOE if these partners meet NSF requirements, including being compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. As NSF implements its plan, the agency intends to consult with and engage other federal agencies as well as the research community and other stakeholders, such as research libraries, universities, and publishers.

NSF recognizes the importance of collaborating with other federal agencies “so that emerging standards and guidelines may be harmonized across research agencies, thus reducing the likelihood of inconsistent requirements and associated confusion and burden for awardees and investigators.” This work will be crucial for higher education institutions in complying with multiple federal funder mandates and requirements.

Revisions to NSF proposal guidelines will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.

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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