Dr. Alondra Nelson of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a memo on August 25, 2022 which recommends that all federal agencies develop new (or update existing) plans indicating how they will be providing public access to the outcomes of research that is federally funded. Some key points:
- The goal of the memo is to provide free, immediate (without embargo), and equitable access to research that is federally funded.
- Applies to all federal agencies.
- Applies to both peer reviewed publications andunderlying scientific data.
OSTP “Nelson Memo” (PDF): “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research“
Link: White House Press Release
The memo recommends that federal agencies:
- Describe how public access will be provided to publications including machine-readable formats
- Describe how public access will be provided to scientific data that underlies publications
- Indicate “researcher responsibilities on how federally funded scientific data will be managed and shared”
- Allow researchers to include costs associated with complying with public access policies
- Use persistent identifiers for research outputs, researchers, and awards
Timeline & Key Dates
Federal agencies will be developing their plans over the near future, with key dates indicated in the memo.
- August 25, 2022: “Nelson Memo” published
- February 21, 2023: Public access policies due (1) – Federal agencies with more than $100 million in annual research and development (R&D) expenditures submit their new or updated public access policies addressing items in Section 3 of the memo.
- August 20, 2023: Public access policies due (2) – Federal agencies with $100 million or less in annual R&D expenditures submit their new or updated public access policies addressing items in Section 3 of the memo.
- December 31, 2024: Final public access policies due – Deadline for agencies to publish final policies addressing all requirements outlined in the memo. Policies to go into effect 1 year after publication.
- December 31, 2025: New policies are in effect – New policies will be in effect no later than this date.
A few initial reactions to the “Nelson Memo” (also known as the “OSTP Memo”) from information and publishing professionals:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does the “Nelson Memo” affect my federally-funded research right now?
No! The memo is directed at federal agencies, and they were given a timeline to develop plans, policies, and procedures. This timeline will take at least 2 years to be fully implemented, so you can expect to learn more from the federal agencies you receive funding from over the course of the next couple years. Research funded by agencies that have existing Public Access Policies (e.g., NIH) or data-sharing policies will continue to be subject to the existing policy until further notice.
While not directly connected to the OSTP memo, there is a new data management & sharing policy for NIH researchers which goes into effect on January 25, 2023.
2. When might my research begin to be affected?
The memo directs federal agencies to develop policies and procedures by December 2024 which are to go into effect within 1 year after their new policies are published. It’s likely that most agencies will take the full amount of time to prepare their policies and procedures, so you can expect your research projects that receive funding in 2025 or later to be affected by any new policies or procedures that are developed in response to the memo.
3. Which of my research outputs will be affected by the memo?
The “Nelson Memo” indicates that plans developed by federal agencies should address both “peer reviewed publications” and “scientific data.”
Peer-reviewed publications include “peer-reviewed research articles or final manuscripts published in scholarly journals, and may include peer-reviewed book chapters, editorials, and peer-reviewed conference proceedings published in other scholarly outlets that result from federally funded research.”
Scientific data include: “the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as of sufficient quality to validate and replicate research findings. Such scientific data do not include laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, case report forms, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer-reviews, communications with colleagues, or physical objects and materials, such as laboratory specimens, artifacts, or field notes.” In addition, scientific data do not include data subject to legal, privacy, ethical or other similar restrictions or limitations.
The memo does not provide specific guidance about research data related to the humanities. This guide will link to agency policies and other guidance on data sharing for the humanities as it becomes available.
4. What is the difference between “public access” and “open access”?
The Office of Science & Technology Policy defines public access as the “free availability of federally funded scholarly materials to the public…and is regarded as a policy term.”
Open access is a broad set of principles and practices for sharing research outputs (including publications and data), where they are freely available online and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. So open access is much broader than public access, but public access is a tool that helps achieve more openness.
In some cases, publishing in an open access journal may not meet public access policy guidelines. For example, NIH-funded research articles published in some open access journals may still need to be deposited into the NIH repository PubMed Central in order to be compliant.
5. Which federal granting agencies will be subject to new and revised public access publishing policies?
The memo directs all federal granting agencies to revise or develop public access policies, and individual granting agencies will have discretion in policy development. Grants.gov lists the federal agencies that award grants. This research guide will link to specific agency policies and resources as they become available.