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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 News

DOD Releases “Draft Plan” for Public Access

Open Access   ·   Open Data

The Department of Defense (DoD) has released a “draft plan” outlining steps it will take to establish policies to ensure public access to articles and data resulting from its funded research, as required by the February 2013 White House directive.   While the Department is careful to note that “the proposed plan is a draft, ” and is subject to further revision, it lays out a strong framework for the implementation of a DoD-maintained article repository, as well as a comprehensive approach to ensure access and productive reuse of DoD-funded research data.

Of note: unlike the other U.S. agencies that have released plans to date, the DoD will initiate a further formal “rulemaking” process – which will include an open public comment period – before finalizing its policies.  Rulemaking is usually used by an agency to help flesh out a broad mandate by adding more detailed scientific, economic, or industry input to a proposed policy.  On the downside, it can take some time to implement, and the DoD anticipates it will take about 24 months to complete.   Final policies requiring public access won’t be in place until the end of 2016.

Encouragingly, however, the DoD does not plan to stand still. In the interim, the Department indicates that it will move “aggressively” to implement a voluntary pilot program to support the submission of DoD articles and data sets by the end of 2015, and provides details as to how they plan to proceed.

DoD Draft Plan for Articles: Leveraging Current Infrastructure

The DoD draft plan focuses on leveraging existing infrastructure at the Department.  It calls for all DoD-funded researchers to deposit final peer-reviewed manuscripts into the Department’s “Defense Technical Information Center” (DTIC) repository. All articles will be made available to the public with no longer than a 12 embargo period.

While articles are under embargo, the Department intends to provide a link from the DTIC repository to the article on the publishers website.  After the embargo period expires, DoD will provide direct access to the article’s full text on the DTIC repository, as well as maintain a link to the publishers website.  This process closely resembles the implementation currently in place at the NIH’s PubMed Central database, although it is unclear what article format(s) will be supported.

As with the other agencies, DoD will provide stakeholders with a mechanism for petitioning the Department for changes in the embargo period.  The DoD envisions that stakeholders will have to provide “compelling, statistically-based evidence” to support any change to the 12-month-maximum requirement – presumably allowing petitions to shorten embargoes, as well as potentially lengthen them.

The DoD draft plan doesn’t elaborate on reuse rights for articles in the DTIC database, other than to note that articles will be subject to copyright and related license terms.   Articles authored by DoD employees, however, will carry a full government use license.  This mixed mode has implications for text and data mining, especially when combined with the indication that the Department will allow bulk downloading only upon specific request.

One significant place where the DoD’s draft plan differs from others released to date is in the area of compliance.  The Department indicates that it plans to develop its own “compliance monitor,” that will issue “certification tokens” to authors who submit articles and datasets to the DoD under the new policies.  The current document doesn’t provide any additional details, but the concept of tokens is an intriguing one.

DoD Draft Plan for Research Data: Data Management Plans Set Default to Open

The DoD’s draft plan for data access is (understandably) prefaced by a statement reiterating that the Department is  committed to sharing research data that is “consistent with applicable law and policy, agency mission, and U.S. national, homeland and economic security.”  Classified data would, of course, be explicitly excluded from any new public access requirement.  Notably, the DoD’s draft plan would also exempt any data from being publicly released that compromises the “ability to file for intellectual property protection on any invention arising from the data.”

Putting it in synch with all of the other agencies to release plans to date, the DoD draft plan calls for investigators requesting funding from the Department to submit a Data Management Plan (DMP) outlining their plans for managing and providing access to research data, or else to provide a rationale why their research can not or need not be made available – again, using a DMP to effectively set the default mode for DoD-generated research data to “open.”

The draft DoD plan also reiterates the emerging theme that development of a final public access policy for the Department’s research data will be an iterative process, and will involve regular communication and collaboration with other federal agencies and stakeholders in a variety of key areas, including in the development of creating comprehensive guides for producing Data Management Plans.

The DoD includes language indicating that ultimately, the Department intends to require that any data directly related to a DoD-funded research publication be made freely publicly accessible on the day of the article’s publication.  The inclusion of this language is also in line with that of the majority of other agencies who have released plans to date.

Like the other agencies, the DoD does not explicitly provide direction for a specific location for research data to be deposited, pointing to the desirability of using established, publicly accessible institutional repositories or cloud-based solutions, with the DoD providing a data set locator/catalog to facilitate discovery, compliance and other measurements.

Finally, the DoD joins the majority of the other U.S. agencies in noting that the Department will explore the development of a “research data commons” along with other departments and agencies, for storage, discoverability, and reuse of data with a particular focus on making the data underlying peer reviewed scientific publications resulting from federally funded scientific research available for free at the time of publication.

While the approaches and states of readiness of the nine agencies and departments who have released their public access plans to date certainly differ, strong commonalities are emerging in the proposed approaches to implementation in both the article and data realms.  SPARC will continue to monitor these plans closely as they are released, and to provide the library community with information and analysis on areas where opportunities for productive actions are emerging.

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