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Public Access Mandates FAQ's

In February 2013 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a policy memorandum directing federal agencies to develop policies to make the publications and data resulting from funded research freely available to the public. The agencies have begun releasing their policies, many of which include a new requirement for data management plans (DMP) as part of the proposal process. Additionally, several private funding organizations are also adopting similar policies.

If your question is not addressed below, please contact the public access team at lib-datamgmt@fsu.edu.


What is a public access mandate?

A "public access mandate" is a formal policy adopted by a funding agency that requires funded research projects to make the products of the research (publications and data) accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

How do I comply?

In order to comply with a public access mandate, you must deposit a version of your research article in an open access repository. Additionally, many federal funding agencies are now requiring data management plans as part of the proposal process. One aspect of a data management plan is determining the preservation and access of your research data. A public access mandate may also require that you deposit the data from your study into a trusted data repository. As a service to authors, some publishers offer direct deposit of an article into mandated or specified repositories (e.g., PMC) after the embargo period. Authors should always double check that the publisher has submitted to the appropriate repository in the correct amount of time.

When do these policies go into effect?

Each agency has its own timeline for implementation of their policy, but generally 2015 - 2016 is when most will begin to be in force. For example, the agencies under Health and Human Services are expected to begin implementation by October 2015 while NSF is planning for January 2016. Consult this research guide for enforcement dates by agency. Also, University Libraries public access team would be happy to consult with you on ensuring your compliance with the policy and recommending best practices.

Who at my campus can help me interpret these policies?

University Libraries are available for data management consultations, information about public access, repository recommendations, and detailed interpretation of funder policies. We also work closely with the Office of Research, departmental research office grants analysts and compliance officers. Additionally, University Libraries have expertise, skills and resources to advise you on the practicalities of compliance with a federal access policy. For example, we can help you with choosing an appropriate repository where one is not directly prescribed, or developing and implementating a data management plan to effectively describe and preserve your data set. Finally, the Research Computing Center is a potential partner for storage, use and sharing of your data sets during a project’s active period.

What are “public access compliant repositories”?

Each agency is defining this differently, but the characteristics are pretty standard across the spectrum. The repository must be openly accessible to anyone with an internet connection, it must allow deposit by individual or by a designee (e.g., publisher), and it must have some degree of technical flexibility to facilitate interoperability with other platforms.

Public access to what?

Generally, most funders are requiring at a minimum that the peer-reviewed, author's manuscript as accepted for publication (not the final published, formatted article) be made publicly available. Additionally, funders are requiring that data related to the publications be made available in trusted open access data repositories.

Are there exceptions to releasing data?

There are a few exceptions, depending on the agency, and the specific reasons. It appears that funders are concerned with efficient data management, including long-term storage and clear descriptions of the data. Accessibility of data is good practice for reproducibility, a point with which research funders are aligning.

Which research funders currently have public access mandates?

Any federal agency with $100 million or more in annual R&D expenditure is required to develop a public access policy, although not all of them have yet. Listed below are the federal agencies that must adopt policies.

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
    • Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
    • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
    • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of Interior
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Smithsonian Institution (Complying voluntarily. Budget is less than $1 million)

Several private research funders are also adopting public access mandates, including: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the American Heart Association, The Ford Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. More detail is available at the Public Access Mandate research guide.

Do the policies apply retroactively to publications/data?

No; the policies will generally take effect at various times in the next year or two, depending on each agency's plan. However, if you will be publishing peer-reviewed articles or data in the near future, an early consultation with University Libraries' public access team is encouraged. Any researchers actively working on a new grant proposal are especially urged to make appointments with us or the Office of Proposal Development, particularly for new data management plan requirements.

Aren’t these policies “unfunded mandates”?

Some funders already allow and expect costs for data management or publication charges to be written into the grant proposals. As funders are simply now expecting a more specific return on their investment, it could be argued that these policies are in fact funded mandates.

Will this policy change my personal impact factor (h-index, etc)?

Very likely yes, and for the better. There is a body of literature that has explored the growth of impact for publicly accessible research. The Office of Scholarly Communication can provide more detail about the "open access citation advantage," or work with individuals on determining thier personal impact factor and strategizing ways to increase it.

What are the consequences for inaction or non-compliance?

Compliance with the public access mandates, including requirements for a data management plan, will determine funding or not. The NIH has recently begun very strict enforcement of their public access policy, which has been a requirement since 2008, by denying future funding to non-compliers.

Who owns my data?

According to Florida State University's Policy on Authorship and Data Acquisition, Management and Ownership (Policy 7A-3), the University owns the data produced as part of research activities conducted here.

Who owns my publications?

According to Florida State University's Faculty Handbook, articles published in professional journals and scholarly and professional books, texts, works of art, musical compositions and the like are owned by the author/creator until they transfer those rights to another party. Typically, publishers require a full transfer of rights as a term of publication. However, many publishers are moving toward a model where the author retains some rights. The Office of Scholarly Communication is available for publication contract reviews and consultations on author's rights and options available for retention of rights.

Why is the library involved in these public access mandates?

University Libraries have developed expertise in the area of academic publishing and data management over the past few years. The research funder's public access mandates align with the goals and growth areas in many academic libraries.

Where am I allowed or required to deposit my work?

Most funding agencies are dictating exactly which repository you are required to submit to. Where they are flexible, the public access team is happy to collaborate with you to research and identify the best repository for your work, that will also meet compliance measures.

Do I need to deposit my publications and data into a repository, or will the publisher handle that for me upon acceptance?

Many publishers built technical workflows into their submission process to assist authors with compliance to the NIH public access policy by automatically submitting the manuscripts to PubMed Central. As these public access mandates go into effect, the publishers are expected to develop similar workflows for other funders and repositories. However, it is the author's funding that will be denied if compliance measures are not met. Researchers are encouraged to be proactive in ensuring publications and data are deposited and accessible.

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