Science Policy
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The Future of Open Science Policy

02.05.24 | 8 min read

Science holds the greatest benefit for society when its process is open, its methods are transparent, and its outputs are accessible. The U.S. government has stepped up over the past decade to help make research accessible to the public with minimal cost or delay, but the scientific enterprise faces new challenges that call for a fresh and ambitious set of open science policies. While many reforms remain in the hands of individual scientists and institutions, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) declared 2023 as the Year of Open Science and reaffirmed that federal science agencies have a vital role to play in promoting innovative and inclusive open science policy. 

To help meet this moment, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) partnered with the Center for Open Science and the Wilson Center to source and develop actionable policy ideas aimed at improving scientific transparency, equity, and innovation. Participants come from academic, nonprofit, and patient advocacy communities, with expertise across a range of scientific disciplines and open science frameworks. Their recommendations represent a broad cross section of the open science ecosystem, spanning four distinct topic areas: community engagement in research and data, open source scientific hardware, transparency across the research lifespan, and security of open science software and data. If you would like to discuss these recommendations with the authors or the organizing institutions, please reach out to

Affected communities hold key insights that are critical to understanding and addressing the complex environmental, social, and health challenges of our time. Effectively engaging these communities means going beyond making the outputs of science accessible. Instead, it means forging meaningful partnerships that span the research process, from idea conception to data interpretation, in order to create a more equitable scientific enterprise and a more public-informed policy ecosystem. This section proposes three innovative approaches for doing so. These initiatives aim not only to enhance the inclusivity and transparency of scientific research but also to ensure that federal policies are grounded in diverse perspectives and real-world contexts. By fostering active collaboration among government agencies, researchers, and communities, we aim to create a more dynamic and responsive open science landscape, where community hypotheses and data governance play a central role in driving scientific discovery and informing policy.

Expand capacity and coordination to better integrate community data into environmental governance >>

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should better integrate community data into environmental research and governance by building internal capacity for recognizing and applying such data, facilitating connections between data communities, and addressing misalignments with data standards.

Emelia Williams and Katie Hoeberling, Open Environmental Data Project

Create an Office of Co-Production at the National Institutes of Health >>

The National Institutes of Health should form an Office of Co-Production in the Office of the Director, Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives.

Jeff Sheehy, Patient Advocate, and Grace Wickerson, Federation of American Scientists

Establish data collaboratives to foster meaningful public involvement >>

To deepen community involvement in developing evidence-based policy, federal agencies should form Data Collaboratives in which staff and members of the public engage in mutual learning about available datasets and their affordances for clarifying policy problems.

Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University

The growth of an open source ethos within the scientific community represents a paradigm shift towards more collaborative, transparent, and efficient research infrastructure. Open source hardware (OSH) — publicly accessible technology designs that can be freely used, modified, and distributed — has the potential to revolutionize how scientific tools are developed and utilized. OSH also provides the government with a unique opportunity to align its public good–oriented mission with its funding and procurement of scientific infrastructure. This section delves into the potential of open source hardware to democratize scientific inquiry, reduce costs, and foster a culture of shared knowledge across scientific domains. Through these recommendations, we highlight the transformative impact of integrating open source hardware into federal policies and processes. By prioritizing open source solutions in scientific instrumentation and recognizing their value, we can build a more inclusive and interconnected scientific community, accelerate the pace of innovation, and ensure that the fruits of federally funded research are accessible and beneficial to all.

Build capacity for agency use of open science hardware >>

In scientific work in the service of agency missions, the federal government should use and contribute to open source hardware.

Shannon Dosemagen, Open Environmental Data Project, and Alison Parker, Wilson Center Science & Technology Innovation Program

Make government-funded hardware open source by default >>

Federal grantmakers should establish a default expectation that hardware developed as part of federally supported research be released as open hardware. To retain current incentives for translation and commercialization, grantmakers should design exceptions to this policy for researchers who intend to patent their hardware.

Michael Weinberg, New York University School of Law

Incorporate open source hardware into Patent and Trademark Office search locations for prior art >>

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) should incorporate open source hardware certification databases into the library of resources to search for prior art, and create guidelines and training to build agency capacity for evaluating open source prior art.

Alicia Seidle, Open Source Hardware Association

Making the outputs of federally funded research transparent and publicly accessible is a central goal of the U.S. government’s open science initiatives. Yet these outputs represent only the final stage of the research life cycle, while earlier stages — including proposal development, protocol planning, project implementation, and peer feedback — often remain closed off to the community, the public, and decision-makers. Increasing the transparency of these key components of the scientific process could be transformative. This section explores policies and initiatives to advance openness across the research lifespan. Exploring ideas of openness in research methodology, peer review, grant applications, and data sharing, these recommendations highlight the power of cross-cutting transparency to help lay a stronger foundation for evidence-based policy and scientific advancement. By broadening the scope of public access, we can cultivate a scientific ecosystem that is more equitable, collaborative, and impactful.

Make publishing more efficient and equitable by supporting a “publish, then review” model >>

The federal government should take action to support preprinting, preprint review, and “no-pay” publishing models in order to make scholarly publishing of federal outputs more rapid, rigorous, and cost-efficient.

Jessica Polka, ASAPbio

Promote reproducible research to maximize the benefits of government investments in science >>

To build on existing federal efforts supporting scientific rigor and integrity, funding agencies should study and pilot new programs to incentivize researchers’ engagement in credibility-enhancing practices that are presently undervalued in the scientific enterprise.

Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College

Incorporate open science standards into the identification of evidence-based social programs >>

Federal clearinghouses should incorporate open science practices into their standards and procedures used to identify evidence-based social programs eligible for federal funding.

Sean Grant, HEDCO Institute for Evidence-Based Educational Practice, College of Education, University of Oregon

Improve research through better data management and sharing plans >>

Federal agencies should take coordinated action to ensure that data sharing policies created in response to the 2022 Nelson memo incentivize high-quality data management and sharing plans (DMSPs), include robust enforcement mechanisms, and implement best practices in supporting a more innovative and credible research culture.

David Mellor, Center for Open Science

Open scientific grant proposals to advance innovation, collaboration, and evidence-based policy >>

We recommend that funding agencies implement a process by which researchers can opt to make their grant proposals publicly available. This would enhance transparency in research, encourage collaboration, and optimize the public-good impacts of the federal funding process.

Jordan Dworkin, Federation of American Scientists

As science evolves, software and data are becoming increasingly critical pillars for progress. Yet the infrastructure supporting these models is likely to encounter the dual challenge of maintaining openness while safeguarding against security threats and privacy concerns. Managing this delicate balance is crucial for enhancing the trust and efficacy of scientific research. This section delves into strategies aimed at strengthening the technological underpinnings of open science. It highlights the need for better mapping and supporting key infrastructures, creating mechanisms for rapidly responding to threats, and ensuring robust standards and guidelines for protecting sensitive information. These recommendations are not merely about safeguarding data and software; they represent a proactive approach to fostering a robust and resilient open science ecosystem. By doing so, we not only protect the integrity of today’s scientific research but also lay a strong foundation for future innovations.

Establish grant supplements for open science infrastructure security >>

To support teams and allow for timely resolution to security problems, science funders should offer security-focused grant supplements to funded OSI projects.

Johanna Cohoon, University of Utah

Support scientific software infrastructure by requiring SBOMs for federally funded research >>

All agencies that fund research should require that resulting publications include a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) listing the software used in the research.

James Howison, University of Texas, Austin, and Karthik Ram, University of California, Berkeley

Advance open science through robust data privacy measures >>

Building on existing data and privacy efforts, the White House and federal science agencies should collaborate to develop and implement clear standards for research data privacy across the data management and sharing life cycle.

Alyssa Columbus, Johns Hopkins University

Develop a Digital Technology Fund to secure and sustain open source software >>

To better address security and sustainability of open source software, the United States should establish a Digital Technology Fund through multi-stakeholder participation.

Sayeed Choudhury, Carnegie Mellon University

A Note on Recommendation Attribution

Note that each of the recommendations above stands alone and is attributed to a specific contributor or team of contributors. The recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of the full cohort, and the list of recommendations as a whole does not constitute a consensus.

Citation Guidance

The entire collection should be cited as: 

Topical sections should be cited as: 

Individual recommendations should be cited as: