Revisiting the OSTP Open Access Memo

Last winter, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a policy memo called Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research. This Data Pub post and this Peter Suber Google+ post are two of the better overviews that were written at the time. In OSTP’s own words…

OSTP Director John Holdren has directed Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research.

At the time the memo came out I was working at ICPSR, who are of course huge proponents of access to research data. I worked to analyze the requirements of the memo and develop recommendations for policies that might be written as a result of it.

But it’s now been more than 8 months since the memo was released, so what progress has been made? At the OA Week kickoff event, Dr. Michael Stebbins said that around two dozen agencies have developed policies as a result of this memo since its release.

The memo doesn’t specify how research results should be shared, so that remains the big logistical question at play.  In June, ARL, the Association of American Universities, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities proposed a system of repositories called “SHared Access Research Ecosystem (SHARE).” Around the same time, the Association of American Publishers proposed a system called “Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS).” See here (Michael Eisen, Berkeley Blog), here (Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications @ Duke), or here (a blog called… Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week…) for more discussion on that subject; needless to say, there’s widespread skepticism about the willingness/ability of publishers to manage this content in an appropriately open fashion.

It will be interesting to see how things play out as the policies are finalized and enacted; certainly libraries will need to have a place at the table. I’m also curious to see how the actual research data comes into play, since storing and providing access to complex data is obviously a tremendous challenge.

Edit 10/29/13: The DOE has posted an update regarding their work towards compliance with the memo.