To little fanfare and less publicity, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released this report last month on public access policy coordination across the executive branch. The report was required as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, and incorporates the results of the two requests for comment I noted last fall, and an earlier public consultation from 2009 (all three are included as appendices to the report).
The report marks the next step in the executive branch’s public access journey, which started in earnest back in 2008. I consider it more of a progress report than a formal policy document that moves current policies towards (or away from) more public access for both publications and data (referred to as digital data) resulting from federally funded research. At least where digital data is concerned, the executive branch sees this process of coordinating and standardizing policies for making information accessible will take years to develop and implement.
In short, you’d be hard press to find specific deadlines or next steps in this report. It does, however, provide a useful summary of existing policies for public access to research and data in three federal agencies (The Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation). There I was able to find a specific deadline of interest, with respect to the National Science Foundation (NSF):
“The NSF has identified access to digital products of NSF-funded research as one of its priority goals for FY2012-FY2013. This priority goal is intended to increase opportunities for research and education through public access to high-value digital data. Specifically the performance goal states, ‘By September 30, 2013, NSF will have established policies for public access to high-value data and software in at least two data-intensive scientific domains.'”
Progress remains slow, even when put on a calendar. I suppose it’s a bit more satisfying than the biennial legislative dance that goes nowhere really slowly.