The US Data Access Act is No Match to its Counterpart in the UK.

Editor’s Note: Data Access legislation merely allows taxpayers to have access to government funded studies. Any organization, be it in the private sector or a NGO, that wishes to bypass the requirements in the statute can do so by simply not accepting government funding.

The first Key Principle in NERC’s Data Policy, which includes Data Access, is that “The environmental data produced by the activities funded by NERC are considered a public good and they will be made openly available for others to use.” NERC then has numerous related  and often highly detailed guidance measures for every step of the process.

There is a section of the NERC Data Policy which is directly analogous to the Data Access Act in that it sets requirements on disclosure duties of contractors. However, where the Data Access Act  merely requires that “Federal awarding agencies . . . ensure that all data produced under an award will be made available to the public through the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act. . . .,” the NERC document goes into extensive detail regarding both broad data access principles and specific contractor duties.

One example of a NERC data access principle is “NERC expects everyone that it funds to manage the data they produce in an effective manner for the lifetime of their project, and for these data to be made available for others to use with as few restrictions as possible, and in a timely manner.”  Examples of specific detailed contractor data disclosure requirements include “All applications for NERC funding must include an outline Data Management Plan, which must identify which of the data sets being produced are considered to be of long-term value, based on the criteria in NERC’s Data Value Checklist. The funding application must also identify all resources needed to implement the Data Management Plan” and “The outline data management plan will be evaluated as part of the standard NERC grant assessment process. All successful applications will be required to produce a detailed data management plan in conjunction with the appropriate NERC Data Centre.”

NERC notes that “Those funded by NERC who do not meet these requirements risk having award payments withheld or becoming ineligible for future funding from NERC.”

NERC has an even more detailed Data Policy implementing guidance document with additional details as well as related guidance document pertaining to specific issues underlying data access such as researchers preserving model code and model output.

NERC Data Policy

US Data Access Act

N. B.  The US Data Access Act is limited in scope because OMB’s implementing regulations, as opposed to the statute, restrict its applicability to only those studies and reports which carry the force and effect of law. Even if the statute were implemented in its entirety, the UK Policy is more comprehensive in that it requires public access the entire life of a document.

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