NSF Data Sharing Policy Released

The National Science Foundation has released its revised NSF Data Sharing Policy. As of January 18, 2011, NSF proposals must include a two-page (or less) "Data Management Plan" in accordance with the Grant Proposal Guide, chapter II.C.2.j (see below excerpt).

Here's an excerpt from the Award and Administration Guide, chapter VI.D.4:

b. Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing. Privileged or confidential information should be released only in a form that protects the privacy of individuals and subjects involved. General adjustments and, where essential, exceptions to this sharing expectation may be specified by the funding NSF Program or Division/Office for a particular field or discipline to safeguard the rights of individuals and subjects, the validity of results, or the integrity of collections or to accommodate the legitimate interest of investigators. A grantee or investigator also may request a particular adjustment or exception from the cognizant NSF Program Officer.

c. Investigators and grantees are encouraged to share software and inventions created under the grant or otherwise make them or their products widely available and usable.

d. NSF normally allows grantees to retain principal legal rights to intellectual property developed under NSF grants to provide incentives for development and dissemination of inventions, software and publications that can enhance their usefulness, accessibility and upkeep. Such incentives do not, however, reduce the responsibility that investigators and organizations have as members of the scientific and engineering community, to make results, data and collections available to other researchers.

Here's an excerpt from the Grant Proposal Guide, chapter II.C.2.j:

Plans for data management and sharing of the products of research. Proposals must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled “Data Management Plan”. This supplement should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results (see AAG Chapter VI.D.4), and may include:

  1. the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  2. the standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies);
  3. policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
  4. policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
  5. plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

A May 2010 NSF press release ("Scientists Seeking NSF Funding Will Soon Be Required to Submit Data Management Plans") discussed the background for the policy:

"Science is becoming data-intensive and collaborative," noted Ed Seidel, acting assistant director for NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences directorate. "Researchers from numerous disciplines need to work together to attack complex problems; openly sharing data will pave the way for researchers to communicate and collaborate more effectively."

"This is the first step in what will be a more comprehensive approach to data policy," added Cora Marrett, NSF acting deputy director. "It will address the need for data from publicly-funded research to be made public."

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