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Open Data: Options for Researchers

This guide provides information about public access and open access to data and the options researchers have for sharing data or data privacy.

Why Share Data?

  • To fulfill funder and journal requirements. Grant funders and (in some disciplines) journals may require data sharing.
  • To raise interest in publications. One study found a 69% increase in citations for articles whose associated data were available online.
  • To establish priority. Data posted online can be timestamped to establish the date they were produced, blocking “scooping” tactics.
  • To speed research. Particularly in complex fields, data sharing can accelerate discovery rates, as researchers into Alzheimer’s disease discovered.

About Data Access and Copyright

Public Access - data available for viewing but not easily redistributed. For example, copyrighted/proprietary data available online in PDF form.

Open Access - Machine readable data available without restrictions via public domain or CC0.


Proprietary - Data in which ownership is claimed by an entity. Licenses include traditional copyright, where all rights are retained, Creative Commons and other similar licenses.

Public Domain - There is no ownership (i.e., no licenses) of data in the public domain, and anyone can use the data how they choose. While CC0 isn't public domain, its license offers the closest amounts of freedoms as possible in comparison to items in the public domain.

Funder Requirements

The 2013 Public Access to Federally Funded Research memo from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directed most grant-funding agencies to develop policy requirements public access to resulting articles and data. This page looks at the requirements from federal funders for managing and sharing research data; for articles, see requirements for public access to publications.

For more detailed information, including timelines for sharing, please see the other tabs: Requirements Overview, More Information, and Full Table of Funders.

For information on the Public Access to Federally Funded Research including the 2022 OSTP Nelson Memo, and working with Data Management Plans using the DMPTool click here 

Information adapted from the University of Minnesota Libraries. For more info, see

Federal funders' responses to the OSTP memo (updated as they become available):

Agency Directorate Effective Date DMP Required? Sharing Venue
DOD   End of 2016 Yes “Established, publicly accessible institutional repositories”
DOE   Oct. 2015 Yes OpenEI for EERE, or other approved repositories
DoED IES FY2016 Yes “existing data repository” or other approach*
DOT   Dec. 31, 2015 Yes An appropriate data repository, and inventoried in the DoT Public Data Listing
HHS AHRQ Oct. 2015 Yes TBD
ASPR Oct. 2015 Yes Publicly accessible databases
CDC Oct. 2015 Yes Encourages the use of public repositories
FDA Oct. 2015 Yes Publicly accessible, discipline specific repositories
NIH End of 2015 Yes Existing, publicly accessible repositories
NASA   Jan. 1, 2015 Yes Existing data repositories
NIST   Oct. 2015 Yes Publicly accessible databases
NOAA   2015 Yes Existing NOAA data centers, other data repositories, interagency Research Data Commons
NSF   2011 Yes “an appropriate repository”
Smithsonian   October 2015 Partial** Smithsonian Research Online, or approved external data repository
USDA   January 2016 Yes USDA registry of datasets, other repository options
VA   December 31, 2015 Yes Partner with HHS, NIH, FDA, and DoD on “effective mechanisms"

* Data must be available for at least 10 years

** Data management plan is required for digital projects

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ)
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Energy
    • DOE's Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • DOE Statement on Digital Data Management Statement.
      The DOE's Office of Science began requiring a data management plan with all grant applications in October 2014. The agency notes that "Sharing and preserving data are central to protecting the integrity of science by facilitating validation of results and to advancing science...." However they note that "Not all data need to be shared or preserved. The costs and benefits of doing so should be considered in data management planning."
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of the Transportation
    • DOT's Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • "In the DMP, researchers will propose their strategy(ies) to deposit Digital Data Sets resulting from DOT-funded Scientific Research in a repository that enables and allows for Public Access and sharing.... All Digital Data Sets subject to this plan will be inventoried in the DOT Public Data Listing, whether performed by intramural or extramural researchers."
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    • CDC's Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • CDC Policy on Sharing Data
    • "The purpose of CDC’s data release/sharing policy is to ensure that (1) CDC routinely provides data to its partners for appropriate public health purposes and (2) all data are released and/or shared as soon as feasible without compromising privacy concerns, federal and state confidentiality concerns, proprietary interests, national security interests, or law enforcement activities."
  • Department of Education
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • National Institutes of Health
    • NIH's Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • NIH Data Sharing Policy, as of 2003, still current
    • For grants over $500,000, a data sharing plan must be included in the grant application and incorporated as a term and condition of the award. Final Research Data "should be made as widely and freely available as possible while safeguarding the privacy of participants, and protecting confidential and proprietary data".
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    • NASA's response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • NASA Earth Science Statement on Data Management 
      "The data collected by NASA represent a significant public investment in research. NASA holds these data in a public trust to promote comprehensive, long-term Earth science research. Consequently, NASA developed policy consistent with existing international policies to maximize access to data and to keep user costs as low as possible. These policies apply to all data archived, maintained, distributed or produced by NASA data systems."
    • See example NASA Mission project data management plans
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities
    • Office of Digital Humanities of NEH Data Management 2016
      "You'll note that we have aligned our data management requirements with those of the National Science Foundation to enable you to take advantage of data management resources that your institution may have already developed for applying to the NSF.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    • NOAA Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • NOAA’s plan for data builds on the agency’s existing strong foundation for research data sharing. Currently, all intramural researchers are required to submit a Data Management Plan (DMP) outlining plans for providing access to and long-term preservation of any research data, while extramural researchers are required to submit a more light-weight Data Sharing Plan, covering plans for access only. These requirements will be adjusted to require all NOAA programs to consider requiring full DMP’s when researchers apply for NOAA funding.
  • National Science Foundation
    • NSF's Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • NSF FAQ on Open Access Policy
    • NSF DMP Requirements Library Guide
      "[NSF] expects PIs to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of the work." Researchers must describe how they will share their data in a written data management plan required in all grant applications since January 2011."
  • United States Department of Agriculture
    • USDA's Response to the OSTP's Public Access Memo
    • USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
      The NIFA requires a DMP will all research. They state: "Increased access to scientific research results (e.g., scholarly publications, digital data sets) from NIFA funded projects is critical to achieving NIFA’s vision to catalyze transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to address agricultural challenges. Therefore, an appropriate data management plan (DMP) should be a core component of research planning for proposals submitted to NIFA."
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Environmental Protection Agency

To locate requirements for agencies not listed here, we recommend searching the web and specifying government websites in addition to your keywords. For example, "site:gov atmospheric radiation". This will help you find funders at local, state and national levels with data management expectations.

Creative Commons Licenses

CC0 - according to Creative Commons, is "a universal public domain dedication that may be used by anyone wishing to permanently surrender the copyright and database rights (where they exist) they may have in a work, thereby placing it as nearly as possible into the public domain."

  • It is recommended data be shared with a CC0 license.
  • Other CC licenses, where CC0 is not desired, can also be used for data and databases.
CC 3.0 versus 4.0: Improvements Between Licenses
  • 4.0 is applicable sui generis database rights lie squarely within the licenses' scope, while 3.0 does not apply to datasets that do not implicate copyright
  • 4.0 is more internationally enforceable
  • 4.0 waives moral rights to the limited extent necessary to enable reuse in the manner intended
  • 4.0 can be readily used in many places internationally without porting

Creative Commons licenses