I am pleased to share the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) implementation plans and common policy approach to expanding public access to the results of scientific research funded by HHS agencies. These plans were developed by our major scientific operating divisions in response to a February 22, 2013 memo from the Office of Science and Technology Policy on increasing access to the results of federally funded scientific research.
The development of a public access policy applies to federal agencies with greater than $100 million in annual research and development expenditures. Within HHS, four operating divisions meet this threshold: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ). Additionally, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is voluntarily developing a public access plan for their portfolio of funded projects.
Given that these operating divisions have unique missions, oversee vastly different types of research portfolios, operate under separate legal authorities, and receive independent funding streams for their infrastructure, it was practical for each of these operating divisions to draft their own implementation plans that align with our Department’s common policy approach.
In taking this approach, the HHS operating divisions worked together to establish guiding principles and a framework around which they could develop implementation plans tailored to the needs of their research communities, taking into account their unique missions and legal authorities. Throughout this process, we have sought to consider the interests and needs of our various stakeholders, including federally funded researchers, universities, libraries, publishers, data users and civil society groups.
There are two distinct components to our plans. The first relates to making the publications resulting from our funded research freely available to the public. As our operating divisions follow the foundation for public access developed by NIH over a decade ago, we will expand the public availability of our funded research, to include new areas such as public health, comparative effectiveness and emergency preparedness research. We anticipate these additions will further enrich the over 3 million papers that are currently available to the public through the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central, a free archive of the biomedical and life sciences journal literature. The operating divisions will utilize PubMed Central as the common repository for peer-reviewed publications and PubMed, a repository of citations, for the sharing of metadata. Through NIH’s experiences in developing and instituting public access policies, our organization has gained a great deal of knowledge about providing outreach on public access and enhancing compliance through the use of electronic tools. To the extent feasible, our operating divisions will build on these systems and lessons learned. Where possible we will strive to provide our research communities with continuity and a seamless approach with respect to language used in our grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and intramural research requirements.
The second component of our plans relates to making our scientific data publicly available in digital formats. For this component, the infrastructure is still emerging. Each operating division will strengthen its requirements for its investigators’ data management plans and sharing of data. The operating divisions will also develop their specific plans for the deposition and cataloguing of their funded research. Our collective aspiration is to link the HHS Enterprise Data Inventory, which will serve as the internal catalog for all HHS data assets, to healthdata.gov, the external-facing platform through which the public can already access nearly 1,800 datasets. Our intention is to expand healthdata.gov so that the public will ultimately be able to locate and access HHS funded research data through this portal. As we develop the infrastructure necessary to carry out the data components of our public plans, we will seek to integrate the requirements set forth by the White House in the Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset (M-13-13).
Our operating divisions are at different stages with respect to the maturity of their public access policies and infrastructure. We anticipate these policies to become effective no later than the end of calendar year 2015.
As we move from planning to implementation, we will seek to evaluate the utility of our operating divisions’ plans and their ability to meet the information needs of our stakeholders. It is our aspiration to ensure that the public can derive maximum value from federally-funded information sources.
At an inflection point in history, we are well poised to strengthen our public access practices through modifying existing policies or creating new ones, and through leveraging existing platforms and tools in order to make sharing of federally funded research results a widespread practice for HHS funded researchers.
We look forward to working collaboratively with our stakeholders in evaluating and implementing these plans. Together we can accelerate the movement of science and research into the hands of as many as possible. American citizens deserve that and HHS intends to deliver on that promise.
Sylvia M. Burwell
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services