The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has released its revised policy on Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results.
Starting January 18, 2011, NSF grant proposals must include a data management plan to describe “how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results.” Data management plans will be reviewed with the grant application by program officers and peers, and implementation (or lack thereof) may influence subsequent award decisions.
The revised Grant Proposal Guide suggests several items for inclusion in a project’s data management plan: an inventory of research output the project will create, standards applied for describing and storing the data, policies for sharing, provisions for reuse, and plans for preservation. This is helpful, but very high-level.
Luckily, the NSF and several Directorates have provided supplementary documents with much more detail on expectations of the NSF in general, and individual Directorates in particular. The Directorate Guidance documents provide a variety of suggestions (and sometimes requirements), including definitions about what is considered “data”, when the data needs to be made available, and what types of sharing or archive locations are appropriate. As intended, these guidelines differ between Directorates, reflecting a variety of community norms.
Let’s look at expectations for timeliness of data availability, as a specific example. The general FAQ states, “the expectation is that all data will be made available after a reasonable length of time,” where “what constitutes a reasonable length of time will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management.” The FAQ further suggests that one reasonable standard is to make data accessible immediately upon study publication. The ENG (Engineering) guidance recommendation mirrors this. The expectation of the OCE (Ocean Sciences) is different: data should be submitted as soon as possible, but no later than two years after collection, with more stringent requirements for some programs. Using yet a different milestone, the SES (Social and Economic Sciences) suggests that quantitative social and economic datasets be submitted within one year of the expiration of the grant award. These concrete expectations will clearly assist investigators writing data management plans, and provide a common ground for reviewers.
In several places, the documents explicitly mention that what constitutes an acceptable plan is expected to evolve, as standards, technologies, resources, and community norms change over time.
Nicely done, NSF.
Note: The Directorate for Biological Sciences has not issued a guidance as of this writing.
Update: The guidance from the Directorate for Biological Sciences was issued June 15, 2011.
January 2011 Policy
- NSF Policy: Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results (Oct 06, 2010)
- NSF Award and Administration Guide, Chapter VI – Other Post Award Requirements and Considerations: Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results (January 2011)
- NSF Grant Proposal Guide, Chapter II – Proposal Preparation Instructions: new section on data management plans (January 2011)
- NSF Data Management & Sharing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (Oct 01, 2010)
- links to Directorate Guidance documents
Commentary and related documents
- Info on using Dryad to help meet data archiving requirements
- NSF data-management plan language out; more directorates reporting in by Dorothea Salo at Book of Trogool
- NSF Data Sharing Policy Released at DigitalKoans
- Categorized excerpts of NSF policy requirements and guidelines by Heather Piwowar at researchremix
- Committee on Strategy and Budget Task Force on Data Policies Charge and timeline (Draft final report expected first half of 2011)
- NSF Press Release 10-077: Scientists Seeking NSF Funding Will Soon Be Required to Submit Data Management Plans (May 10 2010)
- NSF Revamps Data‑Sharing Policy at C&EN Sept 27, 2010
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