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United States

Open Science Through Open Data (US0072)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Office of Science and Technology Policy

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Open Data, Public Participation, Science & Technology

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Outstanding Outstanding

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

By providing access to government-funded scientific information and data, Federal agencies leverage scientific investments while catalyzing American innovation and novel applications for business and entrepreneurship. Federal agencies can also take steps to make the research they support more open. In September 2015, the Office of Science and Technology Policy encouraged Federal science agencies, in designing citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, to take steps to ensure that datasets, code, applications, and technologies generated by such projects are transparent, open, and freely available to the public.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

✪ Commitment 20. Open Science

Commitment Text:

Advance Open Science through Increased Public Access to Data, Research, and Technologies

By providing access to government-funded scientific information and data, Federal agencies leverage scientific investments while catalyzing American innovation and novel applications for business and entrepreneurship. Federal agencies can also take steps to make the research they support more open. In September 2015, the Office of Science and Technology Policy encouraged Federal science agencies, in designing citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, to take steps to ensure that datasets, code, applications, and technologies generated by such projects are transparent, open, and freely available to the public. To continue momentum and collaborations for open science, the Office of Science and Technology Policy will:

  • Increase Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research. In 2013, the Office of Science and Technology Policy directed Federal science agencies to develop plans to increase access to the results of unclassified research supported wholly or in part by Federal funding. The public’s ability to search, retrieve, and analyze both scientific publications and research data leverages Federal investments and provides new opportunities for scientific advancement and economic growth. The Office of Science and Technology Policy will work to ensure that all Federal agencies that spend more than $100 million per year on research and development finalize plans and implement policies and programs to make scientific publications and digital data resulting from Federally funded research accessible to and usable by scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, students, and the general public.
  • Encourage Increased Public Participation in Open Science Using Low-cost Scientific Instruments. One step that the Federal government could take to increase participation in citizen science and crowdsourcing is to develop hardware and software tools that are affordable, easy to use, and easy to improve. The Administration will kick off an interagency dialogue to identify best practices for how the Federal government can foster the development of low-cost scientific instrumentation and work with stakeholders through workshops and ideation challenges to identify opportunities for getting them into the hands of volunteers, such as air-quality monitors or wearables for monitoring personal health. Using these low-cost scientific instruments, volunteers can contribute their expertise to help advance a variety of scientific and societal goals.

Responsible Institution: Office of Science and Technology Policy

Supporting Institutions: Federal science agencies

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Editorial Note: This commitment is a starred commitment because it is measurable, is clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has a transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to advance open science by broadening public access to federally funded science research and data by:

  • Ensuring that federal agencies develop and implement plans to make federally funded research and data accessible to interested parties, with an emphasis on agencies that spend more than $100 million annually on research and development; and
  • Launching an interagency dialogue focused on best practices related to the development of low-cost scientific instrumentation (e.g., hardware and software) and outreach practices to facilitate citizen-based and crowdsourced science initiatives.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

At the midterm, the government had made substantial progress on this commitment:

  • Per the government’s midterm self-assessment report, by the close of the midterm reporting period, 16 agencies had produced public access plans for expanding public access to federally funded scientific research. The 16 agencies are collectively responsible for 98 percent of all federal research and development expenditures. [282] Ten of these agencies had released their plans publicly. [283] As of late July 2016, 14 agencies had begun implementing their public access plans. Each of these plans included a requirement to proactively publish federally funded research. Seven agencies had begun to implement complementary data management plans. [284] Also by July 2016, the government established digital repositories [285] to house federally funded research, with repositories operational for all agencies that had public access plans in place. Collectively, these activities resulted in substantial completion for Milestone 20.1 at the midterm.
  • By contrast, per the government’s report, the government had made less progress on Milestone 20.2. Progress was limited to early consultations with stakeholders to survey the existing citizen science instrument landscape. The Office of Science and Technology Policy organized the consultations. [286]

End of Term: Substantial

At the end of term, progress on this commitment remained substantial.

As of December 2016, all 16 agencies had released their public access plans to the public. Eleven of the 16 agencies had developed and begun implementing a complementary data management plan covering some or all of the federally funded research they support. (This reflects an increase of four agencies since the midterm.) [287] As stipulated in the commitment text, all 16 agencies will proactively publish the research they fund, per their public access plans. [288] Some agencies will additionally provide access to several years of federally funded research on a retroactive basis, dating back to 2008. However, the majority of agencies have limited their retroactive publication window to 2015–2016.

To better inform researchers about these plans, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition produced detailed agency-by-agency assessments of data-sharing requirements. The coalition is a global, member-based civil society organization comprised largely of academics and libraries. [289] Its assessments contain information on agencies’ underlying research principles and information-sharing approaches, exclusions and limitations, and the conditions under which data must be publicly shared. They also include information on how data will be shared, metadata and attribution requirements, and a host of other information. [290]

Collectively, these activities effectively resulted in the completion of Milestone 20.1. As a complement to these activities, on 27 October 2016, the National Science and Technology Council established the Interagency Working Group on Open Science (IWGOS) to “facilitate interagency coordination and cooperation on topics of common interest” and “identify additional steps agencies can take to improve the preservation, discoverability, accessibility, and usability of the full range of outputs of, and data supporting, Federally-funded scientific research.” [291] In addition, IWGOS will work to “identify opportunities for international communication and collaboration to advance open science.” [292] The working group’s charter [293] situates its activities directly in the context of the open access initiatives that comprise the focus of this milestone. All 16 agencies have representatives on the IWGOS, in addition to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Representatives from these two offices serve as the working group’s co-chairs. [294] Per its charter, IWGOS was initially established with a termination date of 31 July 2017, unless it is renewed by the OMB and the OSTP. [295] As of the time of writing, the IRM researcher was unable to determine whether the IWGOS was renewed.

Another complementary activity took place in Congress on 26 July 2017, slightly outside the end-of-term reporting period. The congressional representatives Mike Doyle (Democrat-Pennsylvania), Zoe Lofgren (Democrat-California), and Kevin Yoder (Republican-Kansas). reintroduced the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) [296] for consideration by the House of Representatives. [297] The act would largely codify the provisions of the OSTP’s 2013 directive, which required agencies with annual research and development expenditures greater than $100 million to develop and implement the open access plans referenced under this milestone. [298] FASTR was previously introduced in 2013 and 2015. At the time of writing, a version of the act has been presented in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The primary difference between the two chambers’ versions concerned the post-publication embargo period (six versus 12 months, respectively). [299]

Civil society has largely come out in favor of FASTR. Michael Eisen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-founder of the Public Library of Science, has argued that “the passage of the bill would be a step forward,” while nevertheless stating a preference for no embargo period. [300] The Electronic Frontier Foundation, [301] the American Library Association, [302] and the American Association of Law Libraries [303] have similarly expressed support for the act. Passage of the act remained outstanding at the end of term.

As for increased public participation in open science (Milestone 20.2), the IRM researcher could not find evidence of further progress since the midterm. Activities related to citizen science were carried out as part of Commitment 26 (Open Innovation). However, these actions were not explicitly focused on developing low-cost scientific instrumentation, as stipulated by this milestone. Despite repeated attempts to set up interviews with the officials responsible for implementing the activity, government stakeholders did not provide the necessary contact information to conduct interviews. [304] The completion of this milestone at the end of term, therefore, remains limited.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Outstanding

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

This commitment opened government in outstanding fashion with respect to access to information, due to the completion of Milestone 20.1.

As of late 2016, a variety of results were already visible regarding improved access to scientific research through implementation of agencies’ open access plans. A White House blog post from 28 October 2016 highlights key advances in the availability of federally funded scientific research:

  • The NSF created the NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) in early 2016. [305] According to the agency’s public access plan, the repository involves articles and papers produced as part of NSF-funded research from proposals submitted or due as of 26 January 2016. This information must be posted on the site (with a 12-month embargo). [306] By early 2018, the NSF-PAR contained nearly 27,000 full texts available for public access. [307]
  • In early 2016, the government also launched PubDefense. This is an online repository for scientific research funded by the DoD, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). [308] By early 2018, the repository contained more than 5,500 full texts (though only five were from ODNI and IARPA). [309]
  • In August 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a research results portal, PubSpace. [310] The portal provides “one-stop shopping for research articles and data resulting from NASA-funded research.” [311] As of early 2018, there were just under 1,500 papers available on the site. [312]
  • The Environmental Protection Agency began publishing its federally funded research in 2017. [313] As of early 2018, there were about 2,000 full texts available on its website. [314]

While other agencies’ repositories for federally funded scientific research grew in size during the action plan period, most were already available prior to the action plan period. [315] Another concrete commitment outcome involved the disclosure of data underpinning federally funded research. For example, the Department of Transportation released more than 800 transportation-related datasets linked to descriptions of research projects via the USDOT Research Hub.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The government should nevertheless build upon the momentum generated by the activities completed under Milestone 20.1 to continue supporting open science on an ongoing basis.

[282] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 21–22, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.

[283] “Implementation of Public Access Programs in Federal Agencies,” Federal STI Managers Group, https://cendi.gov/projects/Public_Access_Plans_US_Fed_Agencies.html#AwardDates, consulted 4 June 2017.

[284] John P. Holdren, Letter to US Congress, 22 July 2016, http://pcastarchive.net/PCAST4/www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/public_access_-_report_to_congress_-_jul2016_.pdf, consulted 4 June 2017. 

[285] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 22, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.

[286] Ibid.

[287] For links to each agency’s plan and the dates when they were made publicly available, see “Implementation of Public Access Programs in Federal Agencies,” CENDI Federal STI Managers Group, https://cendi.gov/projects/Public_Access_Plans_US_Fed_Agencies.html, consulted 1 October 2017.

[288] For a list of research repositories, see Jerry Sheehan, “Federally Funded Research Results Are Becoming More Open and Accessible,” The White House blog, 28 October 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/28/federally-funded-research-results-are-becoming-more-open-and-accessible, consulted 1 October 2017.

[289] “Who We Are,” Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, https://sparcopen.org/who-we-are/, consulted 1 October 2017.

[290] For data-sharing requirements, see “Data Sharing Requirements,” Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, http://datasharing.sparcopen.org/data, consulted 1 October 2017.

[291] Jerry Sheehan, “Federally Funded Research Results Are Becoming More Open and Accessible,” The White House blog, 28 October 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/28/federally-funded-research-results-are-becoming-more-open-and-accessible, consulted 1 October 2017. For the working group’s date of establishment, see “Charter,” Interagency Working Group on Open Science, 27 October 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/NSTC/cos-iwgos-charter-1016-signed.pdf, consulted 1 October 2017. The date of establishment is assumed to be the latest date among the government signatures appearing on the charter.

[292] Jerry Sheehan, “Federally Funded Research Results Are Becoming More Open and Accessible,” The White House blog, 28 October 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/28/federally-funded-research-results-are-becoming-more-open-and-accessible, consulted 1 October 2017. 

[293] “Charter,” Interagency Working Group on Open Science, 27 October 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/NSTC/cos-iwgos-charter-1016-signed.pdf, consulted 1 October 2017.

[294] Ibid.

[295] Ibid.

[296] For the text of the act, see “H.R. 3427 - Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2017,” Congress.gov, 26 July 2017, https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3427/text, consulted 1 October 2017.

[297] “U.S. Representatives Introduce Bill Expanding Access to Federally Funded Research,” Office of US Congressman Mike Doyle, 26 July 2017, https://doyle.house.gov/press-release/us-representatives-introduce-bill-expanding-access-federally-funded-research-0, consulted 1 October 2017.

[298] For commentary, see Gavin Baker, “New Legislation Would Protect Your Right to Research,” American Library Association, 27 July 2017, http://www.districtdispatch.org/2017/07/new-legislation-protect-right-research/, consulted 1 October 2017. For the 2013 directive, see John P. Holdren, “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies: Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy, 22 February 2013, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf, consulted 1 October 2017.

[299] Robert Harington, “Science, Publishing and Government Bills: Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR),” The Scholarly Kitchen, 20 September 2017, https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2017/09/20/50250/, consulted 1 October 2017. For further discussion of the embargo period debate and a similar viewpoint, see Elliot Harmon, “Open Access Can't Wait. Pass FASTR Now,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, 11 August 2017, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/08/open-access-cant-wait-pass-fastr-now, consulted 1 October 2017.

[300] As quoted in Emily Conover, “Getting up to Speed on FASTR,” American Physical Society,  https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201508/fastr.cfm, consulted 1 October 2017.

[301] Elliot Harmon, “Open Access Can't Wait. Pass FASTR Now,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, 11 August 2017, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/08/open-access-cant-wait-pass-fastr-now, consulted 1 October 2017.

[302] Gavin Baker, “New Legislation Would Protect Your Right to Research,” American Library Association, 27 July 2017, http://www.districtdispatch.org/2017/07/new-legislation-protect-right-research/, consulted 1 October 2017.

[303] “Formal Statement in Support of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, H.R. 3427: Letter to Members of the House,” American Association of Law Libraries, 18 September 2017, https://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/Formal-Statements/2017/lt091817House.pdf, consulted 1 October 2017. See also, “Formal Statement in Support of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, S. 1701: Letter to Members of the Senate,” American Association of Law Libraries, 18 September 2017, https://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/Formal-Statements/2017/lt091817House.pdf, consulted 1 October 2017.

[304] The IRM researcher attempted to obtain a list of potential interviewees from the government’s OGP point of contact (POC) on several distinct occasions during the drafting of this report, beginning in September 2017. In emails sent on 10 October and 24 October 2017, the IRM researcher explicitly requested that the POC make available a list of potential government interviewees. The researcher would speak to these interviewees regarding progress made on various commitments contained in the action plan. On 9 November 2017, the IRM researcher spoke via phone with the government POC and re-iterated the earlier request for access to a list of potential interviewees. The IRM researcher followed up with an email to the government POC on that same day reiterating the request for a list of interviewees. The POC had been receptive during the preceding phone call. The IRM researcher received no subsequent response from the government POC.

[305] NSF Public Access Repository, National Science Foundation, https://par.nsf.gov/

[306] Public Access to Results of NSF-Funded Research, National Science Foundation, https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/public_access/index.jsp.

[307] NSF Public Access Repository, National Science Foundation, accessed 22 February 2018, https://par.nsf.gov/search.

[308] PubDefense, https://publicaccess.dtic.mil/padf_public/#/home.

[309] Simple Search, PubDefense, accessed 22 February 2018, https://publicaccess.dtic.mil/padf_public/#/simpleSearch.

[310] PubSpace, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/funder/nasa/.

[311] Jerry Sheehan, “Federally-Funded Research Results Are Becoming More Open and Accessible,” Office of Science and Technology Policy, 28 October 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/28/federally-funded-research-results-are-becoming-more-open-and-accessible, consulted 1 October 2017.

[312] PubSpace, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/funder/nasa/, accessed 22 February 2018.

[313] “PMC Role Continues to Expand as a Repository for Federally and Privately-Funded Research,” National Library of Medicine, Technical Bulletin, 29 August 2017, http://bit.ly/2opB5bx.

[314] EPA Pub Central, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/funder/epa/, accessed 22 February 2018. 

[315] For example, PubMed Central, which contains research funded by several agencies, including the NIH, grew from 3.6 million articles at the start of the action plan (see a web archive of the site from 1 October 2015 at http://bit.ly/2CcCoUz) to 4.7 million articles as of 22 February 2018. PubMed Central is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership