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Public Access to Federally Funded Research and Data: What You Need to Know

White House Directive Specifics

The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s (OSTP) February 22, 2013 memorandum Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research (link to text of memo) describes new requirements for providing public access to federally funded scientific research publications and digital data sets. OSTP directed all agencies with greater than $100 million in yearly research and development expenditures to prepare a plan for improving the public’s access to the results of federally funded research. The requirements of each plan apply to researchers both within the Federal Government (intramural) and in organizations funded by the Federal Government (extramural).


Public Access Plan Components

Each sponsoring agency’s plan must contain:

  • a strategy for leveraging existing archives, where appropriate;
  • a strategy for improving the public’s ability to locate and access digital data;
  • an approach for optimizing search, archival, and dissemination features that encourages innovation in accessibility and interoperability, while ensuring long-term stewardship of the results;
  • a plan for notifying awardees and other federally funded scientific researchers of their obligations (e.g., through guidance, conditions of awards, and/or regulatory changes); and
  • an agency strategy for measuring and, as necessary, enforcing compliance with its plan.


The U.S. DOT Response

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) draft implementation plan is focused on three areas:

Publications: Final manuscripts accepted for publication should be submitted to the National Transportation Library, which has a MAP-21 (49 USC 6304) mandate to be the central repository for U.S. DOT research and technical reports and a clearinghouse for transportation data.

Data: Intramural researchers will follow U.S. DOT’s existing Data Release Policy and extramural researchers will have to submit a data management plan for approval.

Projects: The plan proposes a mechanism to link individual research projects to resulting publications and data sets through the required submission of Project Records to TRB’s RiP database and DOT’s Research Hub.


What Information is Not Covered by These Requirements?

Public access to publications and data must honor and protect:

  • confidentiality and personal privacy;
  • proprietary interests and business confidential information;
  • intellectual property rights;
  • national and homeland security;
  • research, data and publications underlying rulemaking and other Administrative Procedures Act (APA) processes, during those processes; and
  • other exemptions and protections provided by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


What Every Extramural Researcher Needs to Know

1. If you apply for research funds from the US Department of Transportation under contract, grant, or cooperative agreement, you will be required to submit a data management plan. for approval. Your plan must identify a repository for your data that is accessible by NTL. Specific requirements have yet to be determined, but may be based on the National Science Foundation (NSF) model. Elements of the NSF data management plans include:

  • project description
  • description of data to be collected (method of collection, formats, metadata, and other standards)
  • plans for short-term storage and access
  • legal issues (intellectual property, personally identifiable information)
  • preservation and archiving
  • permanent identifiers for authors and data sets

2. All final peer-reviewed manuscripts accepted for publication, intramural technical or final reports, and/or Scientific Research project written deliverables (e.g., technical/final reports) that you produce under a DOT contract or grant must be submitted to NTL. These publications will be made publicly available after an embargo period of at least 12 (preferably 18) months.


Questions You May Want to Consider

Does this requirement apply to my project? Which of my projects are partially and fully federally-funded? How might this impact the research process? What types of publications are typically produced in a research project? How might this impact my agency? What if my project was funded by multiple federal agencies? What materials are exempt from this Plan?


Glossary of Terms (will select most important, rest will go in wiki)


TRB Sessions on Data and Data Management

Big Data and Open Data for Transportation Services and Public Engagement – Workshop 133

Evolution of Data Curation, Management and Publication of Research Data

Open Access Initiative at U.S. Department of Transportation – Session 864

What’s the "Big Data" Deal for Aviation? – Workshop 187