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Federal Public Access Policies: Home

An overview of the current and future landscape of US Public Access Policies.

What is Public Access?

Public access means that an output of research (publication, data, etc.) is made freely available and accessible to everyone, usually in a public access repository such as PubMed Central.

Is Public Access the same as Open Access?

No. The requirement to make a publication or dataset publicly available is generally associated with a mandate by a funding agency to deposit these research outputs in a public repository. This allows for anyone to view the publication or dataset. However, traditional copyright guidelines can apply to these outputs, which can prohibit reuse of the information without the permission of the copyright holder.

Open Access is a philosophy that research should be freely available on the public internet for all to use. Researchers can obtain a license (such as a Creative Commons license) to protect their work while allowing for the open distribution and reuse of their work.

In short, public access currently allows for access to research outputs but does not always provide for reuse. Open access allows for both access and reuse that is free of at least some of the copyright and licensing restrictions with proper attribution.


Additional Resources:

To learn more about this distinction, please visit this University of Pittsburgh article. If you want to learn more about Open Access, please visit our Open Access LibGuide

As a Federally-Funded Researcher, What Do I Need to Know?

Federal agencies (such as the NSF, NIH, & USDA) have provided updates or are in the process of updating their Public Access Policies to meet the specifications of the 2022 Nelson Memo. They have until December 31, 2024 to update and publish their policies and up to a year later (December 31, 2025) to implement them.

  • You can review the current Public Access Policy and guidance for each federal agency at this link.  
Public Access to Scholarly Publications
  • Review the publication public access policy for any federal agencies from which you receive grants or awards. 
  • Learn about Author Rights and Copyright
  • If you publish in an open access journal or pay for a publication to be open access, it does not mean that your publication is automatically made publicly available in a public repository. Please check the journal's public access policy carefully!
  • Keep organized records of the versions of your publications. Generally, federal agencies require you to deposit the author's accepted manuscript into a public access repository (like PubMed Central) to avoid copyright issues. This is the version of the manuscript after peer review but before publisher copyediting, typesetting, and formatting. 
Public Access to Scientific Data
  • Review the data management and sharing plan requirements for any federal agencies from which you receive grants or awards. 
  • Get support and assistance on data management and sharing from the CSHL Research Engagement and Data Curator: Jacqueline Gunther, Ph.D.. 
Metadata and Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) to Strengthen Research Integrity
  • Obtain an ORCID and update your profile frequently. 
  • Connect all research outputs (publications, data sets, code, etc.) to your ORCID. 
  • Make sure all publicly available research outputs follow FAIR principles

Timeline of Federal Public Access Policy

February 22, 2013: Holdren Memo Issued

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memo that required all federally-funded peer-reviewed publications and corresponding data be made publicly available, allowing for a 12-month embargo after publication. This policy applied to all federal agencies with research and development budgets over $100 million.

August 25, 2022: Nelson Memo Issued

OSTP issued a memo requiring all federally-funded peer-reviewed publications and data to be made publicly available without an embargo. This policy applies to all federal agencies with research and development budgets. This memo also provided additional guidance for ensuring the integrity and trust in federally-funded research. 

By December 31, 2024: All federal agencies that fund research and development must publish an updated Public Access Policy in accordance with the 2022 Nelson Memo. 

By December 31, 2025: All federal agencies must implement their updated Public Access Policy.