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Public Access Policies

A Research Guide summarizing the federal public access policies and the US Office of Science and Technology Policy memorandum of February 2013 and August 2022.

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Public Access Policies

Public access policies refer to U.S. federal government agency (i.e. NIH, NEA, 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. 

When applying for funding, agencies will provide grant funding recipients with their detailed public access policies, so that recipients can comply with those policies. It may be a good idea if you are a researcher receiving federal funding to be familiar with these policies prior to starting your research, so you can plan to have your research outputs in the format and repository appropriate to fulfill agency requirements.

See the links below to find agency public access policies:

Public Access is NOT Open Access (OA)

While the terms are related in some ways, they are distinct from each other.

Public Access Open Access
U.S. Federal Government term Term to describe an international movement and publishing models
Applies only to federally funded research outputs i.e. articles, data, etc. Can apply to any scholarly or education materials no matter how funded or produced
Applies to peer reviewed publications and associated data Can apply to any scholarly content, including non-peer reviewed (i.e. pre-prints, OERs, blog posts, etc.), peer reviewed, or other research content (i.e. methods, protocols, code, etc.)
Can be subject to copyright or licensing restrictions that prevent reuse meaning users can read and download articles for personal use but may be restricted from sharing or adapting work Recommends research outputs be free of most copyright and licensing restrictions to encourage reuse
Can be subject to embargos that delay access (*This is changing as the 2022 OSTP Memo tells agencies to remove embargo periods) Recommends no embargos or delays in access
Specific requirements vary from federal agency to agency Multiple pathways exist for authors to make content OA but authors are not required to

How are they similar?

  • Encourage free, online sharing of scholarly content
  • See sharing openly as beneficial to society by making knowledge publicly available

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.