The US government is considering a massive plan to store almost all scientific data generated by federal agencies in publicly accessible digital repositories. The aim is for the kind of data access and sharing currently enjoyed by genome researchers via GenBank, or astronomers via the National Virtual Observatory, but for the whole of US science.
Scientists would then be able to access data from any federal agency and integrate it into their studies. For example, a researcher browsing an online journal article on the spread of a disease could not only pull up the underlying data, but mesh them with information from databases on agricultural land use, weather and genetic sequences.
Nature has learned that a draft strategic plan will be drawn up by next autumn by a new Interagency Working Group on Digital Data (IWGDD). It represents 22 agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, and other government branches including the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The group’s first step is to set up a robust public infrastructure so all researchers have a permanent home for their data....
The group then aims to help scientific communities create standards to let databases in one field talk to others in different disciplines....
Many researchers are reluctant to share their raw data in the first place. The IWGDD is considering making submission of well-documented data sets to archives a requirement of getting a grant.
Christopher Greer, senior adviser for digital data at the NSF’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure [PS: and co-chair of the new IWGDD], says that if and when all federally supported science data are accessible, he hopes that publishers and computing companies will add on more sophisticated information services. This would give researchers unprecedented ability to test their ideas....
There are three things to note about this ambitious plan. First, it's about data, not peer-reviewed articles. Second, it arises from the agencies themselves, not Congress. Third, with or without mandates, it's going to happen. Very exciting.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.