FAQ for SMD Information policy

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Updated: December 8, 2022

FAQs on SPD-41a

General Information |  Publications |  Data | Software


General Information  


Q. When did SPD-41a come into effect? Does it impact current, SMD-funded research?  

A. SPD-41a is effective as of December 2, 2022. New missions and awards, starting with ROSES-2023, will be expected to fully comply with SPD-41a. These requirements will be introduced into new solicitations, contracts, and agreements as appropriate.  Existing missions and grants are not required to adopt new guidance, but they are encouraged to do so if feasible with available resources.  

Q. How do the requirements in SPD-41a differ from those already in place under SPD-41? 

A. The major policy updates in SPD-41a concern the timeline for providing public access to publications, sharing research software produced from SMD funding, the open development of unrestricted mission software, and holding science workshops and meetings openly.  

Q. What is SMD doing to reduce the burden on researchers who need to comply with this policy?   

A. This policy was developed to minimize the burden on SMD-funded missions and researchers, and SMD will provide additional support through a number of new and ongoing initiatives. These include: 

  • NASA’s Open-Source Science Initiative provides guidance, training, and services to support policy implementation. There are also solicitations in ROSES to support Open-Source Science including for modernization of software, supporting open source software, development of tools to support open science, and open science activities.    
  • The SMD Scientific Information Policy website includes additional guidance and FAQs.  
  • Transform to OPen Science (TOPS) will provide relevant training on open science, with new OpenCore curriculum to be released in 2023.  
  • Additional training and guidance will be held during NASA’s 2023 Year of Open Science.  
  • Costs of complying with the policy can be included in research budgets, and additional funding opportunities for SMD support the adoption of open science practices. 
  • Each division will also be providing guidance related to the sharing of scientific information relevant for their fields and already provide a wide range of capabilities that enable Open Science.   


Q. How does this relate to the new policy on public access that OSTP released this year? 

A. SPD-41a is compliant with the new OSTP Memorandum on Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research, making SMD a leader among major federal research organizations in adopting the latest open science guidance. 

Q. Will SMD Divisions provide additional guidance on these requirements? 

A. Yes. Each SMD Division will release updated policies or guidance no later than the release of ROSES-23.  

Q. Will ROSES proposals be evaluated based on how well the investigators complied with applicable open science requirements?  

A. Data Management Plans are evaluated as part of the merit of their proposals, and this includes how well the planned activities comply with the open science requirements. SMD will continue to develop further plans in consultation with the community on how compliance with SPD-41a will be applied, but the primary focus of SMD is currently making it as easy as possible for researchers to openly share their research findings.   

Q. What is scientifically useful?   

A. “Scientifically useful” describes 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 if meeting the policy requirements would place undue burden on an investigator? Can exceptions be made in these circumstances?  

A. In certain circumstances where complying with the policy requirements would cause an undue burden on an investigator, a variance from the policy may be granted. Variances are expected to be rare and will be handled on a case-by-case basis following the process described in Section IX of SPD-41a. Investigators should first reach out to their program officer or program scientist.  Examples of circumstances that may be considered for policy variances include: 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 scientific information produced from SMD-funded scientific activities accessible. SMD Divisions may have their own policies that align with SPD-41a and provide additional, community-specific guidance on open-source science. In all aspects, the SMD research community is encouraged to make scientific information as open as possible. This policy will be updated when new laws, NASA policies, or guidance are introduced.   

Q. Why is SPD-41a considered forward-looking? What was the rationale for this policy applying to new missions and new grants starting with ROSES-23?  

A. Many of the new policies are incremental steps on what is already expected for missions and grants, and many of our missions and grants are already implementing, if not leading, in these Open Science practices. For example, the models and data for the recent discovery of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet with observations from the James Webb Space Telescope are shared openly in a community data repository as machine readable files with a digital object identifier. While there are many examples within the different Earth and Space Science fields of groups openly sharing their scientific results, we did not want to introduce unfunded mandates or unplanned work on existing projects with the new policy.  As such, the policy is forward-looking.   

For research grants, we expect those starting to submit their proposals to ROSES23 programs to include the plan and costs in their budgets.  With most working starting in 2024 and results being published in 2025, this gives time for teams to adopt open science practices. Guidance will be available through the Open Science Guidelines and divisions policies.  Training will be available through TOPS to support teams in learning and adopt open science practices.   




Q. How can researchers publicly share their publications immediately at the time of publication if they are behind a publisher’s paywall?  

A. Researchers can meet the public access requirements for publications through multiple methods. For journal articles in which the final published article has associated subscription or access fees (i.e., a paywall), authors may comply with the requirement by sharing their copy of the final accepted manuscript to a NASA-designated repository.   

Q. How do I share my publications? 

A. There are several ways to provide public access to journal articles, and the best option depends on how and where an article has been published. These include publishing an article as Open Access in a reputable journal and submitting an accepted manuscript to PubSpace. Please see ‘How to Share Publications’ in the SMD Open-Source Science Guidance for more information. 

Technical reports should be uploaded directly to the NASA Technical Reports Server 


Q. Can I publish as Gold Open Access?  

A. Publishing your work as Gold Open Access, in which the published article is made freely available immediately upon publication via the journal website, is one acceptable method to meet public access requirements under SPD-41a. SMD encourages researchers to publish as Open Access in reputable journals, and costs for Open Access publishing may be included in the budgets of proposals for SMD funding. Please see ‘Open Access Publishing’ in the SMD Open-Source Science Guidance for more information. 

Q. What Mission publications need to be made publicly accessible? 

A. This requirement covers all publications related to the Mission, including technical reports, peer-reviewed publications, conference proceedings, dissertations, and books. This does not include any documentation that would be covered by exceptions such as export control or sensitive information. Examples of publications that need to be made publicly accessible include peer-reviewed manuscripts describing the detectors used in the mission, unrestricted design documents from mission reviews, and conference presentations on the mission status. This also includes 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 sections in SPD-41a related for research (Sections III and VII). For example, funding supplied for research from successful observations of the Hubble Space Telescope would follow the Research policy for access to publications once it was integrated into the relevant solicitations. 

Peer-reviewed publications created from Mission data without any SMD funding are not required to be made publicly available, but this practice is encouraged. 

Q. How should Missions share 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 made available immediately upon publication. 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.  

Methods for sharing Mission publications include those described under ‘How to Share Publications’ in the SMD Open-Source Science Guidance, as well as hosting on Mission web pages.  




Q. What license should I use for my data? 

A. 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 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. As part of the Data Management Plan, proposers must describe how they plan to share the data and what types of data will be shared.  

Q. What does this policy mean for existing missions that have a period of exclusive use for targeted observations?   

A. SPD-41a applies to new missions; exclusive use periods on existing missions (e.g., Hubble, Chandra, JWST) will be discussed on a case-by-case basis. SPD-41a does not take precedence over existing international agreements for missions like the James Webb Space Telescope that set a period of exclusive use for targeted observations, and any changes to those agreements will take place in consultation with our partners.  While SMD’s policy is that mission data will have no period of exclusive access, there may be a period, not longer than six months, to allow for calibration and validation of the data. This provides researchers time to validate the scientific quality of their targeted observations and experiments. SPD-41a also includes a process for variances when a longer period of time for calibration and validation is warranted for data from missions for exceptional reasons.   

Under the new policy, research on new SMD-funded grants will be required to make any data necessary to validate the conclusions of a peer reviewed publication available at the time of publication or at the conclusion of the funded period of performance.   




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

A.  There is no requirement on maintenance or documentation of scientific software for research. The policy requires that scientific software developed with SMD funding as part of an award be made openly available at the time of peer-review publication in which it supports or at the end of the period of performance of the research award. While there is benefit to maintaining and documenting software, no requirement was included in the policy due to the range of different types of software and to minimize the burden on researchers.  

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.  

Additional guidance is available under ‘Types of Research Software and Expectations for Sharing’ in the SMD Open-Source Science Guidance.  

Q. What if I have further questions?  

A: Please contact the Chief Science Data Officer at HQ-SMD-SPD41@listl.nasa.gov.  

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