A fundamental principle of scientific research is that other scientists can replicate the results of a study. In historical sciences like paleoanthropology, this requires that other researchers have access to the data. Data access is required by many journals and funders, but some scientists are reluctant to provide data to other researchers.
The new policy establishes strong expectations for public access to data from federally funded research programs.
The real problem with a lack of data access is that 50 years of the fossil record is invisible to many students in the field.
The earliest form of data dissemination was the distribution of high fidelity copies of fossils.
In a post from 2005, I reflect on why access to data from fossil hominins is of central value to progress in paleoanthropology.