The Office of Science and Technology Memorandum of February 22, 2013, entitled “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” is a milestone in a path carved over at least the past decade and a half. The DMPTool group traces this shift back to at least the late 1990s, with a minor change in the Office of Management and Budget policies, indicating a broader interest in openness and access to federally funded research. Subsequent initiatives from the National Institutes for Health and National Science Foundation have been major steps in advancing this shift, but there is still a long way to go.
This statement is intended to offer specific points on how the DMPTool may be of service to the requirements of the memorandum. We plan to initially distribute this statement as a post on the DMPTool blog, but will also contribute it towards the planning meetings scheduled for mid-May, organized by the National Research Council (NRC) Division on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education DBASSE). Likewise, we may submit it to other relevant RFI calls, such as the “Reducing Investigator’s Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research“. We hope our efforts will be of benefit to as many constituents as possible throughout this initiative for increased access.
The DMPTool was officially launched in October 2011, after months of collaborative development between the California Digital Library, University of Virginia Library, University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, University of California – Los Angeles, University of California – San Diego, UK Digital Curation Centre, DataONE, and the Smithsonian Institution. While initially the tool focused meeting the needs of data management planning requirements from the National Science Foundation, it has since expanded to include requirements from the National Institutes of Health, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several private funding organizations. In 2012 and 2013, the group received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, to expand functionality and support for the DMPTool into new areas and to meet new needs. The DMPTool is presently used by over 4,500 users at over 650 institutions, and sees the greatest use from researchers applying to the NSF Biological Sciences (BIO) directorate, the National Institutes of Health, and the NSF Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate. A community governance model is presently being implemented, and details can be found at bitbucket.org/dmptool/main/wiki/Governance.
Based on the context outlined above, we propose the following three areas where the DMPTool may be of most service towards achieving the goals of “increasing access to the results of federally funded scientific research” and in particular the mandate to “ensure that all extramural researchers receiving Federal grants and contracts for scientific research and intramural researchers develop data management plans” (Page 5 of memorandum, item 4b):
- Clear communication of the data management planning requirements: The DMPTool is presently the only known location providing an aggregate view of data management requirements and policies across funding agencies. It also tracks changing requirements and realigns the updated requirements with associated guidance. This is a significant service to researchers who seek one place for answers. Partnership between the DMPTool and agencies would enable further growth and establishment of the DMPTool as a coordinated hub, with relatively minimal effort or cost and improved researcher compliance.
- Preparation of high-quality data management plans: The success of this access initiative depends heavily on the quality of data management planning. Proper planning from the start requires having the right information at hand when making critical project decisions and plans; this will lead to better data discoverability and access. This is challenging in research, as there are often many complex actors, including funding agencies, institutions, associations, national laboratories, repositories, and more. The DMPTool community is well connected with many of these groups. For example, we have partnered with DataONE, ICPSR, and DataBib to connect our data management planning process with archival solutions.
- Harmonization of requirements across agencies and communities: With funding from two grants to improve the DMPTool, we are expanding the tool’s functionality, with particular attention to administrative user needs. These administrators may be at the institution level (e.g., at a university grants office), or at the funder level (e.g.,National Science Foundation). As an example, new functionality will enable the Smithsonian Institution to use the DMPTool for preparation, approval, and tracking of all data management plans, across the entire institution, for all researchers. It will allow institutional administrators to see plans being created by their researchers, and to better anticipate the types of resources and policies that will be needed to financially support research efforts. Through this functionality and a broad view of data management planning requirements and practices, we believe that there is an opportunity here for improvement of overall requirements and practices to a point of harmonization.
We look forward to future discussions about how the DMPTool might help achieve the goals of broader access to federally funded scientific research.