Public Access

Introduction to Public Access

In February 2013, a memo from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directed federal agencies with more than $100 million in annual research and development (R&D) expenditures to make publicly available the direct results of federally funded scientific research: Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research.

"Research results" include peer-reviewed publications and digitally formatted scientific data. Wider availability of publications and scientific data in digital formats promotes innovative economic markets for services for curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization of scientific research. Applicable federal agencies have released their public access policies and have developed public access repositories.

What does Public Access mean to UCAR/NCAR?

Agency policies require that UCAR and NCAR researchers who submit a proposal and subsequently receive a new award (or who have an award amended to include a public access provision) must deposit publications that wholly or partially result from these awards into the public access repository of the applicable agency. They also need to place scientific data related to the award into a repository (provided by the institution, publisher, or other data repository service provider) and register that data location with the relevant agency’s public access repository. If the publication and scientific data are a result of funding from multiple agencies, deposit and registration with each agency is required. Failure to comply may impact future funding (in the same manner that late grant reporting currently delays new awards).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Questions

  • Who must comply with the agencies' public access policies?
    Awards to institutions include terms and conditions to implement Public Access requirements. Principal Investigators must ensure that all researchers who work on projects funded in whole or in part by the grants or cooperative agreements comply with the public access policy. The funded researcher is responsible for meeting the public access requirements described in each funding agency's policy.
  • When must my article be deposited?
    Most agencies require that the final peer-reviewed manuscript be deposited no later than 12 months after initial publication.
  • Isn't "public access" the same as "open access"?
    • Public access refers to the policy that implements the objectives of the OSTP memorandum of February 22, 2013 and is meant to ensure that the public has access to the peer-reviewed and published results of federally funded research. U.S. and/or foreign copyright laws will protect most of the papers in public access repositories. The agencies provide access to the results at no cost, much like a library, under the principles of Fair Use.
    • Open access involves the use of a copyrighted document under a Creative Commons or similar license-type agreement that allows more liberal use (including redistribution) than the traditional principles of Fair Use. Publishing research results in an Open Access journal means that the article (the version of record) is immediately available to the public without cost: the article can be accessed via the publisher's website but is no longer behind a paywall. Authors still need to pay any Article Processing Charges (APC), a fee charged by the publisher, if the Open Access journal requires such a fee. Not all Open Access journals require APCs. Public access policies do not eliminate or affect any APC associated with open access journals.
    • UCAR Open Access Policy (requires login) - UCAR's Publication and Information Dissemination Policy 3-5 was updated in August 2019, and is supported by the accompanying procedure:
    • "To assist UCAR in accessing and distributing Scholarly Works, each employee will provide an electronic copy of the final version (final accepted manuscript) of his/her Scholarly Work in an appropriate format at no charge to the NCAR Library, which will make the Work publicly available through an open access repository."
      This means that the final version of a published article is submitted to UCAR's institutional repository, OpenSky, which is already the authoritative record for UCAR/NCAR scholarship, and in this capacity, UCAR provides this authoritative data to our annual reporting processes (e.g., the NCAR Annual Report).
  • Where can I find the NSF Public Access repository?

    The NSF public access repository is available at: The NCAR Library provides support to scientific and engineering staff to help them understand their responsibilities with respect to the various agencies and to help them successfully submit required material into designated repositories.

  • How may I submit a question about Public Access?
    Please submit your questions to, specifying that you need help with Public Access requirements.

  • Publications

  • What qualifies as a scholarly publication?
    The author's final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript or the version of record.
    1. A peer-reviewed manuscript is an author-created version of the manuscript of a peer-reviewed paper, accepted for journal publication, including all modifications resulting from the peer-review process. It is the version before the journal makes final publication edits.
    2. The version of record is the publisher's authoritative copy of the paper, including all modifications from the publishing peer-review process, copyediting, stylistic edits, and formatting changes.
  • May I post a copy of my article to my personal webpage?
    Agency public access policies permit the author to post to personal web pages a copy of the article version that has been deposited in the public access repository, but this may or may not fulfill funders' Public Access Policy requirements.
  • I am required to deposit a copy of my article in OpenSky. Do I still have to deposit a copy in a repository designated by the funding agency(ies)?
    Yes. Depositing to OpenSky will not meet requirements for agency public access. Initially, the investigator/author will need to perform the deposit process. Currently, agency policies put the deposit responsibility on the PI. In the longer term, we hope that current lobbying efforts by research institutions and associations leads to the ability for institutions to designate agents. If successful, the NCAR Library plans to act as an "agent" for our investigators/authors in order to provide programmatic submission to the designated agency repository(ies) based on the funding source(s) for the research through linking our repositories to the federal repositories.

  • Data

  • What qualifies as scientific data?
    Most agency public access policies refer back to the Data Management Plan (DMP) that the investigator submits as part of the funding proposal. In the DMP, the investigator describes the anticipated primary data to be created or gathered in the course of the funded research, and how it will be preserved and accessed. If an award is made, the investigator must manage the resulting data in accordance with the DMP as directed by the agency's public access policy.
    See the following information on utililizing the Data Asset Services Hub (DASH) during initial planning/budgeting phase of research projects at UCAR/NCAR: UCAR Procedure to support Open Access Data Requirements (affiliated with UCAR Policy 3-5) (login required).
  • What are the requirements surrounding the deposit of research data generated by federal funding?
    Many agencies' policies refer to making all federally-funded data publicly accessible--that which is not classified or otherwise exempt or embargoed--not just data that supports published articles. A common thread throughout agency policies is the reference to Data Management Plans (DMP), which are commonly required at the time of proposal submission. The resulting Public Access policies direct the awardee to adhere to their DMP, ensure data is searchable, discoverable, accessible, and well-described; some ask for descriptions of software that analyzes or provides a view on the data. To review and compare data management requirements of different federal funding agencies, please see this guide by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.
  • What does it mean for data to be discoverable?
    For data to be discoverable, the intent is that data should be placed into a repository open to the public, and that metadata describing the data is associated with the data to allow anyone to get a basic understanding of what the data is, and its provenance. Most repositories will require depositors to include metadata. This metadata can then be shared with other services that develop for searching across repositories.
  • What does it mean for data to be accessible?
    In the context of the original OSTP memo and subsequent agency policies, the stipulation that scientific data needs to be accessible means making sure there is documentation about the data (data format, variables, etc.), and that details of the tools (usually software) needed to open, explore, and interact with the data are also documented. Access to the tools will also need to be provided if they are not readily available.
  • How can I get help with developing a thorough, implementable data management plan?
    The NCAR Library can help you get a Data Management Plan started, and can help you identify a data repository that might work for your data. Agencies are placing emphasis on following the DMP submitted with original proposal. Contact for assistance in developing a DMP for your funding proposal.


  • I plan to develop software as part of the research. Is this considered a research output and put in the public registries?
    Whether data or software emerging from funded scientific research will be required to be placed in a depository is a decision of the individual funding agencies involved, therefore PIs should contact the relevant agency program officer or RFP contact for updated guidance.

    NSF has said they expect to include software as a research output that would need to be registered in the NSF's public access repository in the future. In the current NSF policy, software is discussed in the expectations of Data Management Plans. The DMP should detail the management of software to be developed in the proposed research. It should also be noted that software can also play a role in data accessibility (the documentation and tools needed to open, explore and interact with the data) and thus should be referenced as part of any data support materials. The agency policies also allow the institution to not share (embargo) material for specific reasons (e.g. expectation for commercialization, holds personally identifiable information, or may be subject to other government restrictions).
  • Should any software provided as part of public access have a license?
    Yes. Software developed as a part of research at UCAR/NCAR is owned by UCAR (see UCAR Policy 3-5, requires login) and must include an appropriate license prior to distribution. While the U.S. government has rights to use the output from federally funded research for governmental purposes, that is not the case for anyone else who wants to use the software. If you have questions regarding licensing, please contact the UCAR/NCAR Office of General Counsel.
  • I need to include software management in my DMP. What is a good way to manage our code?
    The best method to manage the code base for software is to use a code repository system. UCAR/NCAR maintains an organization account with Github to allow projects to have code repositories that may be public or private ( Your project may be part of a broader effort that already has code repositories. Some divisions also maintain repositories with services such as Github or Bitbucket
  • More questions? Email NCAR Library.

    Back to Top