The NSF Wants You to Help Shape the Future of Science. Here’s How.

January 12th, 2024,
Posted in: Open Science, Policy, OSTP

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is entering a new era with the release of NSF Public Access Plan 2.0, a significant update to existing public access requirements. Responding to guidance from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, this plan will work to make the outputs of federally funded research available to everyone. These outputs include papers and data, including anything needed to “validate and replicate research findings.” This is a giant leap forward for two reasons. 

First, consumers of scientific knowledge will have greater access to taxpayer-funded research. This will help patients, teachers, students, policymakers and others gain access to the most cutting edge and important information available. In an era where misinformation is rampant, scientific knowledge should be accessible.

Second, it will help the scientific community. Too often, it is impossible to build upon research findings because the protocols, code, and data are not preserved or available alongside the paper. This means that it is impossible to even attempt to replicate that work. By emphasizing that “data” includes everything needed to “validate and replicate research findings,” federal policymakers have emphasized the importance of this process for scientific inquiry.

“What can I do to help?”

NSF is actively inviting feedback from you. This is easy to do, can take just a few minutes, and can have a meaningful impact on their plans.

First, tell the NSF that these plans are on the right track. Open access to research papers is possible through their Public Access Repository (PAR). Of course, we strongly support open access publication through journals and quick dissemination of papers through preprint servers, too. The plethora of options can ensure that the most diverse range of researchers can participate.

Second, tell the NSF that open science should not be an afterthought. Data Management and Sharing Plans (DMSPs) are written documents submitted with grants that tell NSF how and where data will be posted. These plans should be part of the scored criteria by which the scientific merit of the proposal is evaluated. Peer reviewers need to weigh in and evaluate whether or not that plan makes sense or can be improved. This will ensure that creating a good DMSP is seen as essential to a good proposal, not an afterthought.

Finally, these DMSP should be publicly available alongside grant abstracts on the NSF website. Most grant information is kept confidential as researchers work on the most cutting edge information. But stating where and how data will be shared is not sensitive information or cutting edge intellectual property. Seeing where these datasets will be shared will help researchers find them and use them. 

You have the chance to contribute your insights to the NSF Public Access Plan 2.0 through a dedicated survey or via email, following the guidelines in the Federal Register announcement. The survey closes on January 19, 2024.

Take the opportunity to contribute your perspectives and be part of shaping the future of public access to scientific knowledge!

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