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US open data legislation

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21/02/2019

The Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act was promulgated on January 14, 2019 . By signing it into law, President Trump enacted the basic principle that all government data, including federally funded research data, must be made public by default and machine readable. The OPEN Act on Government Data has been included in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Public Law 115-435) as is Title II.

The bill requires federal agencies to publish all their information as open data, in standardized, non-proprietary formats – so as not to prevent its use or reuse – and under an open licence – so that the data is available to the public at no cost, without restrictions on copying, publishing, distribution, transmission, quotation, or adaptation. It establishes and formalizes Chief Data Officers (CDOs) within federal organizations with the responsibilities for governance and policy implementation.

A section-by-section summary of Title II is provided online by Data Coalition: https://www.datacoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Summary-OPENGovtDataAct.Section-by-Section-2018.pdf.

The OPEN Government Data Act is based on President Obama’s Open Data Policy (M13-13) of May 2013. The latter had implemented the Open Data policy in the United States, but as a presidential decree, “Executive Order – Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information”. This decree was based on the Freedom of Information Act.

Other actions, also aimed at opening up publications and data, preceded this law:

  • In February 2013, a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies was published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Its purpose was to increase access to the results of federally funded scientific research. A site created by SPARC & Johns Hopkins University Libraries allows you to follow the policies of federal agencies.
  • Also in February 2013, a bill titled Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In this legislation federal agencies were required to develop an open access policy. It provides for the obligation for researchers, whose research is funded in whole or in part by an agency, to deposit their manuscripts accepted for publication in a refereed journal in an open archive. It is a successor to the Federal Research Public Access Act bill which had been introduced three times (2006, 2009 and 2012) but without success.
  • In 2009, passed legislation required all NIH-funded researchers to submit an electronic version of their final peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central as soon as it is accepted for publication, and which should be made publicly available no later than 12 months after its official publication date.