NSF Unveils New Public Access Plan

On July 1, 2015, in Policy, by Brian Mosley

The National Science Foundation has released a new public access plan for scientific journal articles that arise from research wholly or partly funded by the agency. This plan, called “Today’s Data, Tomorrow’s Discoveries,” is an outgrowth of an Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) memo, released in February of 2013, which directed, “each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government.” Let’s look at the details.

The NSF plan is very much in line with the requirements set out in OSTP’s memo. It sets a January 2016 effective date; all grant proposals submitted on or after this date will be subject to the plan. As well, NSF has identified the Department of Energy’s (DOE) PAGES (or Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science) system as the agency’s, “designated repository.” (Note: Most probably the use of DOE’s PAGES is in order to control cost, rather than create a wholly new system just for NSF; part of the instructions in the OSTP memo was that any new system must be implemented and operated within existing budgets). The plan requires that, “either the version of record or the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions,” must be submitted to the PAGES system within 12 months of publication. All of this is in line with OSTP’s requirements.

There is a section on data management as well, which seems to be the first indications of an Open Data plan. The agency’s plan defines research data as, “the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings.” However, NSF writes in their plan that, “in the future, NSF will explore whether all data underlying published findings can be made available at the time of publication.” Anything further is still in the early stages of conception and not covered in this specific plan.

How does NSF’s plan fit into the larger Open Access debate? Seeing as it’s in line with OSTP’s memo, and by extension Administration policy priorities, and Congress has given OSTP room, at least temporarily, to direct science agencies in this matter, it seems the likelihood of push back is minimal. However, that could change with a new bill in Congress, as the legislature does have final oversight. For example, the original draft of the 2014 COMPETES Act in the House Science Committee tried to speed up the adoption of Open Access provisions at the science agencies; that could easily be repeated, as there are still many Open Access supporters in Congress. On the flipside, it is possible that the publisher community could get a repeal bill introduced by a sympathetic member of Congress, removing any such provisions from the agencies. This issue will have to play out more before any final outcome is assured.

Screenshot 2015-04-22 12.30.40The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is currently marking up the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806), introduced by Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) — a bill designed to provide three key science agencies with authorizations for funding for FY 2016 and FY 2017 and implement other policies. The bill is cast as a reauthorization of the original America COMPETES Act of 2007, which, inspired by the seminal National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, was a bipartisan attempt to buttress Federal support the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in recognition of the critical role they play in fostering U.S. innovation and competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world. That original bill attempted to put those agencies on a path to doubling their research budgets over seven years — an important symbolic goal that demonstrated Congress’ commitment to support the physical sciences (which, in DC parlance, is anything not in the life sciences) after years of relative underinvestment.

H.R. 1806 also would authorize funding at NSF, DOE’s Office of Science, and NIST, as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, but does not provide for the steady and real growth in the Federal investment in research called for by the Gathering Storm report or enacted by past COMPETES authorizations. While the bill includes authorized increases for some programs in FY 2016, the bill holds agency funding flat in FY 2017 — and that means a cut in real dollars when inflation is considered.

Though the bill also shows strong support for investments in computing research at NSF and DOE, it does so at the expense of other science disciplines, including the social, behavioral and economic sciences (SBE) and geosciences (GEO). CRA, along with many partners in the science community, opposes this approach, especially given the importance of research in fields like SBE in informing computing research — particularly in computing areas like cyber security research and human-computer interaction. The insight into human behaviors provided by SBE is critical to understanding how best to design and implement hardware and software that are more secure and easier to use.

For these reasons, CRA opposes passage of H.R. 1806 as introduced. CRA released the following letter to Committee Chair Lamar Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) explaining our lack of endorsement.

April 21, 2015

The Honorable Lamar Smith
House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
2321 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson
Ranking Member
House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
394 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Johnson,

As an organization representing over 200 PhD-granting departments in computing, 16 industrial computing research labs, and 6 affiliated computing societies, we commend you both on your long-standing efforts to support the Federal investment in fundamental computing research. While we are pleased to see elements of that support continue in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806), other concerns — including the overall level of support provided to key science agencies in the act — prevent us from offering our endorsement of the bill.

In particular, we are disappointed to note that the bill, by flat-funding science agencies in the second year of authorizations, fails to provide for steady and real growth in the Federal investment in research, something we believe is critical to our Nation’s ability to compete, prosper and be secure in the coming years and decades. Indeed, when inflation is considered, the authorizations for FY 2017 represent real reductions in research investments, including investments in computing research.

We are also disappointed to note that research at the National Science Foundation in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) sciences, along with the Geosciences, would be curtailed under this authorization. As you are aware, research in several key areas of computing — including cyber security and human-computer interaction (HCI) — is significantly informed by work emanating from the SBE directorate. The insight into human behaviors provided by SBE-funded work is critical to understanding how best to design and implement hardware and software systems that are more secure and easier to use. In cyber security work, where the human is often the weakest link in the chain, it is especially crucial to understand the varying motivations and usage patterns that dictate how people interact with their machines, and the expertise in studying those issues in large part resides in the social, behavioral and economic sciences. In HCI work, expertise in social, behavioral and economic sciences is critically valuable in creating workplace systems that foster collaboration and creativity, creating disaster response systems that influence people to effectively find shelter and assistance, and creating systems that motivate medical adherence and compliance with medical treatment.

We would be happy to work with you and your staff to help address these concerns and create legislation we could support wholeheartedly. However, as the act stands, we are unable to offer our endorsement.


J Strother Moore

Information on the ongoing markup, including a live stream, can be found here. CRA joins with a large number of academic, scientific and industry groups in opposition to H.R. 1806. We’ll have more detail about the results of the markup soon. 

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Tonight the House narrowly passed an omnibus FY15 appropriations measure that would fund 11 of 12 annual appropriations bills and provide stop-gap funding for the 12th (the Homeland Security bill), a move that would provide increases for the National Science Foundation and for key computing programs at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The Senate must still approve the bill. The Federal government continues to operate under a “continuing resolution” that expires at midnight tonight (Thursday, Dec. 11th). Because it’s likely the Senate won’t complete their work by then, the House is prepared to pass a two-day extension of the CR to give the Senate additional time.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill faced opposition from Democrats and conservative Republicans (for different reasons) and almost failed to pass a procedural vote in the House earlier in the afternoon after a group of conservative Republicans voted against the rule that would allow the bill to be considered on the House floor. The group was concerned that spending cuts in the bill didn’t go far enough and did nothing to block the President’s recent actions on immigration. Some arm-twisting of Democrats by President Obama secured enough votes for the measure to pass it 219-206.

Here are a few items of interest to the computing research community in the 1600 page bill:

  • The National Science Foundation would receive an increase of $172 million, or about 2.4 percent over its FY14 budget. The House had approved a slightly larger increase (3.3 percent) in its version of the Commerce Justice, Science Appropriations Act passed earlier this year and the Senate appropriations committee had approved a slightly lower increase (1.2 percent) in its version. The final bill doesn’t quite split the difference. The bill would bring the agency’s total budget to $7.3 billion, $89 million more than the President requested for FY15. From the additional funding the committee wants more work targeted at “advanced manufacturing, and for research in cybersecurity and cyber-infrastructure” and $21 million in new funding for the NSF’s activities in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, including work in computational models, visualization techniques, innovative technologies and “the underlying data and data infrastructure needed to transform our understanding of these areas.”

    While not as big as win as outgoing House CJS Chair Frank Wolf had hoped for the agency, the $172 million increase still represents a win given the flat or declining funding many other important programs received in the bill.

  • The bill holds Dept. of Energy’s Office of Science flat — it would receive the same funding as in FY14. Despite the flat funding for the office, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program would receive a $62 million increase, matching the agency request for FY15. In fact, ASCR joins the Fusion Research program as the only two Office of Science programs called out for increases in the bill. Included in the ASCR funding is $91 million for the Department’s Exascale computing efforts; $104 million for Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility; $80 million for Argonne LCF; $75 million for NERSC; and $3 million for the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship program, a program CRA joined with the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) in both 2013 and 2014 to urge Congress to continue. (And they have.)

  • ARPA-E would remain flat-funded.

  • NIST would receive a slight bump. NIST’s Science and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account would increase to $675.5 million in FY15. Included in that is $15 million for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, up to $60.7 million for cybersecurity R&D; $4 million for cybersecurity education; and $16.5 million for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.

  • Defense Department Basic Research (6.1) would increase $112 million over FY14 to $2.28 billion; Applied Research (6.2) would dip $38 million below FY14 to $4.61 billion; and Advanced Technology Development (6.3) would increase $155 million to $5.53 billion. DARPA would increase $136 million to $2.91 billion in FY15.

For those interested in perusing what is being called the “Cromnibus” (continuing resolution (CR) + omnibus…sigh) here’s a link to the legislative language and all the agreed upon explanatory statements. With the House passage, it’s likely the Senate will follow suit — if not by the midnight Thursday deadline, then by midnight Saturday under an extended CR. If Senate passage isn’t possible, it’s thought the GOP leadership might opt for a 3 month CR extension. But I think the expectation at this point is for passage in the Senate and a quick signature from the President.

Whatever happens, we’ll bring you the details!

Photo by BrownGuacamole

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