The Nelson Memo: Public Access to Research and what this means for researchers 


  • The Nelson Memo asks all federal grant agencies, including those providing funding in the Humanities & Social Sciences, to require immediate public access to the peer-reviewed scholarly publications funded by those grants as well as to the underlying research data. 
  • Researchers applying for grants will need a persistent identifier like ORCID 
  • Scholarly Societies relying on subscription models may be adversely affected when the Nelson Memo is implemented.
  • On Friday, October 28, IU Libraries will host a one-day symposium for conversations on open access in Wells Library Hazelbaker Hall.

What is the Nelson Memo? 

 The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a Memorandum on August 25 titled Ensuring Free Immediate & Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research, widely referred to as the “Nelson Memo.” When its provisions are implemented federal grant agencies are required to ensure that researchers who receive federal funds deposit their peer-reviewed scholarly publications in agency-designated public access repositories without any embargo or delay after publication. Prior to this the 2013 Memorandum titled Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research, widely referred to as the “Holdren Memo” allowed for up to 12 months’ delay in providing public access to research funded by certain federal grant agencies. 

Humanities & Social Science researchers 

Unlike the Holdren Memo which covered only federal grant agencies with over $100 million in annual research and development expenditures (grant budgets), the Nelson Memo covers all federal grant agencies. Humanities and Social Science HSS) researchers should pay attention to this as it means that many HSS grants that were not covered by the 2013 Memo are covered by the Nelson Memo. The Nelson memo explicitly cites peer-reviewed book chapters, editorials, and conference proceedings as being subject to its provisions. 

Researcher IDs 

The Nelson Memo also specifically addresses persistent identifiers and access to scientific data underlying peer-reviewed scholarly publications (research data) resulting from federally funded research. For persistent identifiers the Nelson Memo points back to the 2021 NSPM-33 Guidance for Implementing NSPM-33 on National Security Strategy for United States Government-Supported Research and Development which recommends persistent digital identifiers for federally funded individual researchers. It directs federal grant agencies to require that applicants have such a persistent identifier. An ORCID ID meets these qualifications and Indiana University Libraries is an ORCID member. Review our ORCID Guide to learn how to set up your ORCID ID and contact research impact and open scholarship librarian, Willa Liburd Tavernier, if you need further assistance.  

Research Data Sharing 

The research data sharing requirements carve out protections for human subjects data, trade secrets and confidential commercial information, personally identifiable information, and other information which is protected other law and policy. The Nelson Memo requires that federally funded research data should be made publicly and freely available at the time of publication in a digital repository that aligns with the National Science and Technology Council document entitled “Desirable Characteristics of Data Repositories for Federally Funded Research”. Indiana University Libraries’ DataCORE repository, is largely compliant. For questions, contact research data librarian Ethan Fridmanski

Research output and research data are not only expected to be publicly accessible online immediately upon publication but should be in formats that allow for machine readability and enable broad accessibility through assistive devices. 

For all researchers 

The Nelson Memo applies to all researchers on a paper, not just corresponding authors. It is applicable not only to research articles but to all peer-reviewed scholarly publications including book chapters and conference proceedings. Federal grant agencies with budgets of $100 million or higher, should have compliant public access policies in place by February 21, 2023, and other agencies have until August 20, 2023. Researchers should be prepared to comply with these policies by these deadlines. Researchers making grant applications now should include open-access publication costs in their grant budget. The Nelson Memo stipulates that federal granting agencies should allow for the inclusion of reasonable publication costs and costs associated with submission, curation, management of data, and special handling instructions. 

For Scholarly Societies 

We are aware that many of our researchers are heavily involved in scholarly societies. Many scholarly societies use a hybrid or delayed open access publication model, with embargos of varying length, and differing policies on what version of a published research article may be openly shared. Free access is often a perquisite of membership, while revenue from journal subscriptions contributes valuable funding for the society’s activities. Immediate public access to the peer-reviewed manuscript will significantly affect these ways of doing business. Other options for scholarly societies are – 

  1. Diamond Open Access publishers like library publishers which are institutionally financed and do not charge societies or authors for their publication activities e.g. Hindsight: Journal of Optometry History ( 
  1. The community-supported model where institutions pay supporter, membership, or shareholder fees to finance open access publication Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 
  1. Subscribe to Open, where existing subscribers commit to maintaining subscriptions at a sufficient level to allow the journal to make its content open access e.g. Berghahn Open Anthro ( 
  1. Gold Open Access, where the society requires that authors pay article processing charges for all publications. Most publishers use a model where researchers in low-income countries can access discounts or complete waivers of these charges. 

What’s Next 

Supporters of the new initiative praise the removal of the embargo period, the requirement for identifiers, access to research data, and robust metadata requirements as enhancing the transparency and integrity of the research ecosystem. However, there are some concerns. The language of the Nelson Memo is not directive and states that federal agencies “should”, rather than are required to, bring their policies in line with the memo, which could create some lack of clarity and compliance. It is also possible that the Nelson Memo will lead to further dominance of the “author pays” open access model in the publishing world, where the publisher requires an article processing charge to publish the research work open access. A move in that direction will shift even more taxpayer resources to dominant commercial publishers, five of whom control over 50% of global research output. In addition, the Nelson Memo requires public access, not open access, which means that re-use rights beyond access might be severely curtailed by publishers’ licensing terms.  

IU Libraries has negotiated several open access publishing agreements with major publishers such as Cambridge University Press, and PLOS which employ other models and do not require IU corresponding authors to pay an article publishing charge.  

Learn More 

On October 28, 2022, IU Libraries will host a one-day symposium for conversations on Open Access in the Wells Library Hazelbaker Hall starting at 9:30 am. We will highlight IU authors’ experiences with publishing open access, showcase various models of funding open access publication, and frankly discuss challenges and limitations.  

If you have questions or need additional information about the Nelson Memo please contact IU Libraries Scholarly Communication Department at any time at 

The full text of the Nelson Memo can be viewed at  

The full text of NSPM-33 can be viewed at Presidential Memorandum on United States Government-Supported Research and Development National Security Policy – The White House (   

To learn more about open scholarship services provided by IU Libraries Scholarly Communication Department, please visit

IUSW Chalk Talks Explain Information Creation in Academia

IUScholarWorks houses course materials for numerous lectures and seminars across campus. While this content is typically created for a specific class discussion, many of these materials are continually applicable to students outside of the course they were originally created for. One collection of course materials that is particularly useful for research and information literacy instruction in all disciplines is the EDUC-L700 Course Materials collection. This collection consists of seven chalk talks related to information creation in academia, designed by Dr. Beth Samuelson and librarians Julie Marie Frye and Sarah Hare. The conversations highlighted in these videos relate directly to the work we do in the Scholarly Communication Department and provide a great introduction to the development of open access initiatives in higher education. Specifically, the fifth, sixth, and seventh chalk talks investigate the role of journals in academia and how the journal publishing environment has impacted information access over time. 

Video 5 Journals in Higher Education discusses the history of journal publishing and how higher education’s reliance on high-impact journal publishing has affected the evolution of this ecosystem. High-impact journals play a crucial role in faculty and institutional evaluation. An academic’s reputation and case for tenure improves when they publish in a top tier journal. Their university also benefits through improved institutional rankings, which leads to a stronger reputation and higher enrollments. Unfortunately, some publishers have now exploited this need in higher education.

Video 6 Inequities in the Ecosystem explains that while publishers enhance journal articles through editing, typesetting, and indexing and warrant compensation for this work, they have built a business model on scholarly works that have been submitted, reviewed, and edited at no cost to them. They have been able to then sell these works back to institutions for extremely high prices through library subscriptions. Moreover, they often restrict how authors can use their work, usually through publishing agreement terms and paywalls. This expensive content is only accessible by select institutions, creating disparities in information access even  in higher education. Additionally, this content is often impossible to obtain by community members not associated with an institution due to its price. This has created a space in which information inequity and privilege exist. 

Video 7 Transforming the Information Ecosystem highlights how, in the past two decades, institutions have reconstructed this narrative and used their power to promote inclusive access to information. Many government officials, administrators, faculty, librarians, and students are now working together to create models and incentives that both transform scholarly publishing and change the disparity dynamic to create a more equitable information ecosystem. Specifically, many institutions are embracing open scholarship practices to challenge this information inequity. At IU, we have implemented numerous open access policies and initiatives to create barrier-free information access, including:

Most recently, IUB Libraries and IUPUI Libraries, with support from the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council (WPLC), have created a Course Material Transformation Fellowship Program for instructors interested in adopting or creating affordable course materials. In addition to getting involved with any number of IU’s open access initiatives, faculty are encouraged to publish their works open access, use OA publications in their courses, and empower students to use open access materials in their assignments and research. Each of these actions will shift the unbalanced journal publishing environment mentioned in Video 5 and combat the inequalities in information access discussed in Video 6. You can find these chalk talks, along with others in the collection in IUScholarWorks. For more information about the open scholarship services available to IU affiliates, visit our website or contact us at

Data & Visual Literacy and the COVID-19 Infodemic

This post was contributed by Map & Spatial Data Librarian Theresa Quill.

Scholarly and scientific information is distributed in a variety of ways.  The COVID19 pandemic has spurred a large volume of scholarly literature, but also data sharing and data visualization to track the spread of this coronavirus and the impact of efforts to combat it. Some of this information is reliable and some of it is not.

Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian Jackie Fleming and Map & Spatial Data Librarian Theresa Quill were recently published in Digital Culture and Education, discussing their efforts to combat the COVID-19 infodemic.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing the world. This change includes the response and mission of academic libraries. Information about COVID-19 is being published every day in both textual and visual formats. One thing that all of this information has in common is that it is easily accessible to the public. As academic librarians, we believe that it is our job to guide our community to reliable information and teach them how to receive and interpret this information.

The democratization of data visualization and mapping tools over the past decade has meant that creating and sharing visualizations is no longer limited to the realm of experts. While this trend has been overall beneficial, it has also resulted in increased visibility for (mostly unintentionally) misleading or confusing maps and charts and places a greater burden of critically reading and evaluating visualizations on the reader.

The authors say –

“As the Map & Spatial Data Librarian and, Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington, we believed that it was our responsibility to address the surge of visual information being produced daily about COVID-19 cases. We decided that the best action to take was to create a Visual Literacy & Map LibGuide that specifically addressed data visualizations tracking COVID-19 cases. This guide lists reliable data visualizations to follow, tips for reading these visualizations, and general resources for spatial and visual literacy as well as, articles addressing COVID-19 data visualizations. Because COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, we have been periodically adding information to this guide as we find it. We felt that creating this LibGuide was a good first step in developing our campus community’s visual literacy skills in the COVID-19 crisis.”

You can view the research guide here:

And the full article here: