The United States Government Does Not Understand Data Preservation

Adam Kriesberg and Ricardo Punzalan



The United States Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a 2013 memo entitled “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” directing federal agencies with research and development budgets above $100 million to develop plans ensuring the timely provision of access for federally-funded data. Since this time, the affected agencies have released their plans, addressing issues related to scientific literature as well as data access. Drawing upon the 2013 OSTP memo, agency plans to comply with its directives, this presentation asks how prepared federal science agencies are to expand access to scientific data. While some steps such as data management plan requirements appear to be widely adopted, other issues remain unaddressed, including digital preservation, digitization of data in analog and outdated formats, and financial sustainability of data curation activities. Additionally, the activities of the National Archives and Records Administration and recent efforts of organizations such as Data Refuge illustrate a picture data curation in the federal government as one in which research data collected with public funds by civil servant scientists is threatened by infrastructural challenges, unfunded mandates, and a shifting political climate.