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Public Access Policies

A Research Guide explaining federal public access policies.

Public Access Policies

Public access policies refer to U.S. federal government agency (i.e. NIH, NSF, etc.) policies that require federally funded research publications and associated data to be publicly accessible for free in online repositories designated by the government agency (i.e. “agency-designated repositories”). Each federal agency creates its own public access policies for their researchers, so there are different guidelines to follow depending on the funding agency. 

See the links below to find specific agency's public access policies:

Public Access is not Open Access

Are Public Access and Open Access Publishing the same thing?
No, public access is a government term for publicly sharing the results of federally funded research, i.e. peer reviewed articles and data, in agency-designated repositories a.k.a repository deposit. Additionally, Public Access Content:

  • is available freely online for anyone to read but may be subject to reuse and sharing restrictions 
  • may be subject to delays in access (a.k.a. embargos) 
  • often means the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version of the article rather than the final publisher version is freely available
    • AAM: the version of the article after it’s been through peer review and has been accepted by the journal but has not received final copyediting, typesetting and proof correction
  • may only be freely available in the agency-designated repository

Open Access Publishing is a publishing term and model that allows authors to openly publish their peer reviewed articles meaning the articles are free to access. Additionally, Open Access Published Content:

  • is available freely online for anyone to read and often allows some reuse and sharing depending on the open license selected
  • is immediately available online
  • means the final publisher version of the article is available (includes peer review edits and all final editing by publisher)
  • is available on the publisher’s website and may also be shared on other sites like agency-designated repositories
  • does not require authors to transfer copyright to a publisher

Justifiable Limitations to Sharing

It is important to note that there are times when you may have justifiable reasons (ethical, legal, or technical) to limit the sharing of data. Federal agencies often require researchers to write these considerations into their data management plans.

A good example is in the NIH policy linked below.