I missed the announcement when the Agriculture Department (USDA) released its open access policy for research results and digital data. I chalk it up to the tunnel vision of many science policy analysts – The Agriculture Department is often an afterthought. But starting January 1, 2016, USDA grantees cannot make public access an afterthought.
The Department’s policy takes advantage of existing information infrastructure for its public access repository system. Research articles funded by the Department will have to be submitted to this repository within 12 months of publication. USDA has developed a research search engine, PubAg, that already contains research articles published by USDA scientists.
The Department is still working through how it will address digital scientific data. This portion of the current plan describes how the agency will manage and organize the development of this policy, with specific requirements to come later. Three repository options are currently under consideration (page 16) – a USDA data repository for all federally supported research data; contribution to a single federal wide data repository; and encouragement of a highly interoperable federal, academic, private hybrid system. Most agencies’ plans that I have read are, if the address accessing research data sets, approach a hybrid approach, linking to research data sets, but not necessarily storing them within the agency. It’s too early to tell what choice will be made, but the USDA might have sufficient research history and resources to develop its own data repository. We should find out sometime in 2016.