FAQ for SMD Information policy

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Updated: March 16, 2022

Q. Where do I submit my publications? 

A. The publications must be submitted to a NASA designated repository. This includes the NASA Technical Reports server for technical publications and PubSpace for all NASA-funded authors and co-authors to deposit copies of their peer-reviewed scientific publications. SMD is currently developing further guidance on appropriate ways to make NASA publications compliant with our open access mandate. At the time, SMD considers peer-reviewed manuscripts that appear in the Astrophysics Data System as compliant for research-funded publications from researchers outside of NASA. 

Q. Can I publish as gold open access? 

A. Publishing your work as gold open access in reputable journals is an acceptable use of funding. Along with the requirement to submit to PubSpace, we also encourage the use of preprint servers and posting the manuscript to your website to maximize the availability of the manuscript. 

Q. What is scientifically useful?  

A. “Scientifically useful” is any data or software that could be used in either understanding or reproducing a publication or could be used to generate new understanding in the future. 

The motivation behind making this information available is: 

Reproducibility:  Publications can sometimes be incomplete in their descriptions of an algorithm, and the availability of the underlying data or software can significantly help in reproducing the results. 

Reusability:  The data or software can be used in future studies to help accelerate the pace of science.  

Examples of this could include:   

  • Catalogs generated in the analysis of objects of interest  
  • Single-use software that applied corrections to a data set 
  • Scripts for further processing 
  • Spreadsheets that include macros that were used for data analysis 
  • Jupyter notebooks that demonstrate the flow of work 


Q: What about model and simulation data? 

A: Model and simulation data needed to validate scientific conclusions should be shared as part of the data released as part of a peer-reviewed manuscript. However, at this time, guidance for how that should be done and what types of model and simulation data are required to be shared are still to be developed and input will be solicited. 

Q. What does the policy say about requirements for maintaining or documenting software?

A.  Software is a key aspect of reproducibility to a scientific result. At the same time, software can become unusable due to lack of maintenance, changing technology, or people leaving projects. At this time, there is no one solution for the problem of how to assure the usability of software for reproducibility. As such, requirements for support of software are dependent on the type of software that it is. 

For example, there is no expectation on maintenance or documentation of single-use software. The policy only requires that software to be made openly available at the time of publication.  This could be done by including the software in the supplemental material of the publication or releasing a copy on a publicly available repository. 

For software developed as part of a proposal, the expected level of documentation and maintenance should be part of the data management plan. The plan should include a roadmap for the full software lifecycle, and proposed budgets should reflect the need for the level of development and support that is needed. Different divisions or solicitations may set their own expectations for the data management plan. Further guidance will be provided on expectations for long-term preservation.  

For software developed as part of a mission, software should be openly developed with extensive documentation and testing. When possible, this software should both make use of open source software and developers should contribute back to the community. The mission design should provide for the full lifecycle of software development. All unrestricted, mission software should be available in the NASA software repository. 

Q. Why should I share my software? 

A. Sharing scientific software helps support two main pillars of science:  reproducibility and building on the work of others.  

Publications can be incomplete in their description of the underlying algorithm. While this is rarely intentional, this can still be problematic in trying to reproduce the results. Accessibility to the software used can help clarify what was written and what was done. 

In sharing software, we also give the next generation of scientists a clear foundation on which to build. This saves time through re-use of the software or by building on top of existing software.  

In addition, sharing your software also allows it to be cited more widely. For example, those who use your software will cite it, which will increase the impact of your work. 

Q. I’ve developed some software specifically for a paper, how should I share this?  

A. Single-use software is developed for a specific purpose such as for a plot or a Jupyter notebook for some analysis or an excel spreadsheet used for scientific calculations. SMD currently suggests that the software should be shared as part of the supplemental materials or on a service that will create a DOI for the material that can then be referenced in the publication. 

Q. What are the Mission Publications that need to become available?  

A.  These are all documents related to the Mission included technical reports, peer-reviewed papers, conference material, and dissertations. This does not include any documentation that would be covered by exceptions such as export control or sensitive information. Examples would include peer-review manuscripts describing the detectors used in the mission, design documents from mission reviews, and conference presentations on the mission status. This would include the output from conferences or workshops that are primarily sponsored by a Mission.  

Research created from sub-awards or grants from Missions would follow the general policy and additional policies for research. For example, funding supplied for research from successful observations of the Hubble Space Telescope would follow the Research policy for access to publications.  

Peer-reviewed publications created from Mission data without any SMD funding are not required to be made open access though we do encourage that they are made open access to broaden their availability. 

Q. As a mission, how should we share our publications?  

A. As it is important for mission data to become publicly available as soon as possible, the information necessary to understand the mission data should also be immediately available. As such, we encourage missions to make publications from the team that describe the mission, data, or aspects of the mission as open as possible. This includes publishing as open access, posting to preprint servers, hosting on the Mission webpages, and submitting to PubSpace.  

Q. What are the allowed variances? 

A. Variances are expected to be rare and will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Investigators can request variances for circumstances where the policy may cause an undue burden. The following circumstances may be examples that would be considered: delays due to technical difficulties, a harmful impact on student work, unreasonable cost, or external mitigating circumstances.  

Q. Is this policy all I must do?  

A. This policy represents the minimum required to make information accessible. Each division may have their own policies that enhance this policy to make data more accessible. In all aspects, we encourage our community to be as open as possible with the information that they produce. This policy will also be updated when new laws, NASA policies, or guidance are introduced.  

Q. When does the policy come into effect? Do I have to change what I am currently doing? 

A: SPD-41 is already in effect and consolidates existing policy on how information should be made open. Some divisions do already have guidance that requires some information to be more open. For some aspects of the policy, we are still developing further guidance about the policy.  

Further changes to the policy will only come into effect after acceptance by the SMD Associate Administrator. For existing funding, the expectation is that projects will do their best within their existing resources to comply with any new policies. New awards or missions will be expected to fully comply with the policy once it is accepted. 

Q: What license should I use for my data?

SMD scientific data should be released with a Creative Commons Zero license if there are no other restrictions on the data. This provides a clear license for the user that the scientific data is in the worldwide public domain and that they may use it freely. In some cases, there might be existing restrictions on releasing the data due to intellectual property rights, contract restrictions, underlying licenses, or other issues. If unsure, contact your counsel that can help with intellectual property rights or ask for clarifications at HQ-SMD-SPD41@mail.nasa.gov.

Provided the scientific data was developed solely by civil servants (no contractor, grantee or partner participation), is intended by the responsible project/mission/task to be released to the public at large without limitation, and has no other restrictions (e.g. restrictions imposed by licenses, contracts, intellectual property rights and the like), the data should be released under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Because CC0 effectively donates the data to the public domain, care must be taken to ensure that all criteria are met. If there is any question, counsel should be sought from your Center IP Attorney and/or ask for clarifications at HQ-SMD-SPD41@mail.nasa.gov.

Q. What if I have further questions? 

A: Please contact the Science Data Officer at steven.m.crawford@nasa.gov


Please direct questions or corrections on this page to SARA@nasa.gov