A White House memorandum released last week is shaking up the academic community: Researchers who receive grants from large government agencies will soon be required to make their data and publications freely available to the public.
The change represents a huge step forward for the open-access movement and possibly a huge change for Cornell researchers, according to the library's senior policy adviser, Peter Hirtle -- and the library is well positioned to help.
"Cornell already has a lot of component parts that may be part of the solution," Hirtle said, including groups such as the universitywide Research Data Management Service Group, which serves as a hub for information and advice on data issues, and the library's Digital Consulting and Production Services, which supports digital scholarship initiatives, such as repositories, open access publishing and copyright.
Over the next six months, any federal agency distributing $100 million or more annually for research and development must create guidelines that would require researchers to make versions of publications resulting from the funding publicly available, generally within 12 months of publication. In addition, the data they generate with grant funds must also be publicly available.
At least 11 government agencies -- including including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy; the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA and U.S. Agency for International Development -- are included in the new mandate.
Many Cornell researchers are "ahead of the curve" when it comes to openness, Hirtle added, and may already be meeting the requirements that funding agencies will eventually establish.
Furthermore, Cornell-run services such as arXiv, eCommons and Digital Commons@ILR serve as repositories for publicly available information in a variety of fields, and they may have a broader role to play. Publishers, too, may partner with funding agencies to provide the mandated services.
When the National Institutes of Health announced a similar mandate in 2008, the library and the Office of Sponsored Programs worked together to help Cornell researchers meet their obligations. Similarly, there has been a common response to address NSF's requirement for data management plans in grant applications.
Once the funding agencies specify the exact scope and reach of the new requirements, Cornell researchers will meet with their library liaisons to determine the best place to start.
"Depending on what the agencies demand, there are lots of possible avenues to work through," said Wendy Kozlowski, RDMSG coordinator and science data and metadata librarian. "We've already been advising people on how to voluntarily make data open, so we're in a great position to help once the implementation plans mandated by this executive order are developed and implemented."
Gwen Glazer is the staff writer/editor for Cornell University Library.