NSF Data Sharing Policy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) updated its grant requirements and included an entry on Data Sharing. Such a requirement has been used by the NIH for many years, but it is new to the NSF.  The official NSF page can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/dmp.jsp.

The essential points are:

NSF Data Sharing Policy

  1. Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the:
  • primary data,
  • samples,
  • physical collections and
  • other supporting materials
    that were created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants.

    2.  Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing.

See Award & Administration Guide (AAG) Chapter VI.D.4.


Here are the relevant excerpts:

Plans for data management and sharing of the products of research

     Proposals must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled “Data Management Plan.” This supplement should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results (see AAG Chapter VI.D.4), and may include:

  1. The types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  2. The standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies);
  3. Policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
  4. Policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
  5. Plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

Data management requirements and plans specific to the Directorate, Office, Division, Program, or other NSF unit, relevant to a proposal are available at: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/dmp.jsp. If guidance specific to the program is not available, then the requirements established in this section apply.

Simultaneously submitted collaborative proposals and proposals that include subawards are a single unified project and should include only one supplemental combined Data Management Plan, regardless of the number of non-lead collaborative proposals or subawards included. Fastlane will not permit submission of a proposal that is missing a Data Management Plan. Proposals for supplementary support to an existing award are not required to include a Data Management Plan.

A valid Data Management Plan may include only the statement that no detailed plan is needed, as long as the statement is accompanied by a clear justification. Proposers who feel that the plan cannot fit within the supplement limit of two pages may use part of the 15-page Project Description for additional data management information. Proposers are advised that the Data Management Plan may not be used to circumvent the 15-page Project Description limitation. The Data Management Plan will be reviewed as an integral part of the proposal, coming under Intellectual Merit or Broader Impacts or both, as appropriate for the scientific community of relevance.

The requirement goes into effect early next year: NSF Data Management Plan Requirements

Beginning January 18, 2011, proposals submitted to NSF must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled “Data Management Plan”. This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results. See Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) Chapter II.C.2.j for full policy implementation.


Unfortunately, the NSF data sharing policy makes no mention of specific licenses to be adopted for the purpose of publicly sharing scientific data. One would have hoped that NSF would have already been aware of the Open Data Licenses created by the Science Commons, http://www.opendatacommons.org/, which we discussed in a previous post, but at least they are making a first step.

Questions or comments are always welcome!