Wednesday, February 11, 2015 News

NASA Public Access Plan Available: Uses NIH’s PMC Platform

Open Access   ·   Open Data

Today, NASA announced its plan for a policy ensuring public access to articles and data resulting from the approximately $3 billion it invests annually in basic and applied research, as required by the February 2013 White House directive.  NASA has provided a detailed timeline for the final policy to be fully developed, and is slating October 2015 as the goal for full implementation to begin.

NASA’s plan includes provisions for making both articles and data resulting from its funded research publicly available. Most notably, the Agency commissioned a full independent analysis of implementation options available to provide effective compliance with the article requirements of the White House directive. The analysis compared the merits of the NIH PubMed Central (PMC) database, the DOE’s Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science (PAGES) system, and the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS) platform proposed by the publishing industry.  Ultimately, NASA opted to work with NIH’s PMC database.

The plan specifically notes that, “Based on the criteria listed in the OSTP memo dated February 22, 2103 and the need for flexibility in incorporating future upgrades, NASA has chosen the NIH PMC platform.  The NIH has led in information retrieval for many years, and the PMC is a capable, mature, and low-risk platform that has evolved over time.”

The provisions of NASA’s policy on articles track with those in the current NIH Public Access policy, and will require NASA-funded researchers to deposit articles into the PubMed Central database, to be made accessible with no more than than a 12 month embargo.  However, the NASA plan notes that, “publishers may petition for longer embargo periods, but strong evidence of the benefits would be needed.” This language is notable, as it seems to suggest that any determination of changes in embargo length will be measured against the public good, rather than specific industry concerns.

While the NASA plan specifically notes that its policy will facilitate the analysis and bulk downloading of articles for research purposes (and provisionally for the creation of derivative products or commercial uses) it does not provide details of how these functions will be supported. The plan simply notes that its copyright and license provisions will be aligned with PMC’s, which raises questions about how much of the content will be available for either of these purposes.

The NASA plan’s provisions for data access are prefaced by a strong statement reiterating the Agency’s long-standing commitment to the “full and open sharing of data with the research community, private industry, academia and the general public,” and note that the planned Public Access policy “extends NASA’s culture of Open Data access to all NASA-funded research.”

This commitment is underscored by the Agency’s new requirement that all investigators requesting funding from NASA submit a Data Management Plan outlining how researchers plan on “managing and providing access to final research data or state why their research can not or need not be made available to the public,” – effectively setting the default mode for NASA-generated research data to “open.”

The Data Management Plan requirement emphasizes the role that open sharing research data plays in ensuring the validation of published results. While allowing investigators the option of making the case that openly sharing their specific research data is not possible or scientifically appropriate, NASA still calls on those researchers to explicitly describe how the results of their funded research can be validated if their data is not shared or preserved.

The NASA plan also includes the requirement that any data directly related to a NASA-funded research publication be made freely publicly accessible on the day of the article’s publication, or within “a reasonable time period after publication.” The “reasonable time period” is not defined in the plan, but the document notes that it will be spelled out in the final policy.

A provision underscoring that public access to the outputs of its funded research is an agency priority is also included in the NASA plan. The Agency indicates that it will adopt similar strong mechanisms to those of the NIH, including the potential withholding of renewal or new funds if a research fails to deposit NASA-funded articles or data.

One final item that is tucked away at the end of the NASA plan, but is worth noting:  the Agency 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.”  This is an idea that appears to be gaining traction in the federal agency community, and is well worth tracking closely.

NASA’s is the second plan to come out this week.  You can read about the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) plan here.

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