The Holistic Librarian – Thing 19

Hello. I’m Caroline Huxtable, the Subject Librarian for Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Medical Imaging and Physics.

As part of the Holistic Librarian project I was asked to research three tasks of the ‘23 Things (+1) for Research Data Management’.

Task 19 was to research the answer to the question: A researcher is working with a commercial partner on a research project. In which circumstances could the researcher make the research data from this project available on Open Access?

What I knew about the topic before the task:

I was aware that researchers in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (whose subjects I support) collaborate on projects with a range of regional, national and international external organisations including multinational companies, and that this work is often therefore commercially sensitive. However, I have not had to deal with any queries about the use of research data arising from such work, so this was a new topic for me.

What I know now:

The researcher must ensure that s/he abides by the conditions of any agreements entered into with the commercial partner, including in respect of the use of research data arising from the joint research project, such as whether it can be made available on Open Access (for example in a subject or institutional repository). The researcher must also ensure that the content of any Open Access data does not infringe copyright, e.g. that it is not derived from a licensed or commercial product. If the data does contain copyrighted material, the researcher must ensure that permission has been sought from and granted by the rights holder to include it in the Open Access dataset. Any material for which such permissions have not been granted must be deleted from the dataset prior to it being made Open Access. If the dataset has been sponsored or funded by any organisation other than the researcher’s employer, the researcher must ensure that s/he has fulfilled all obligations to that institution or organisation regarding Open Access publication.

Additionally, it is good practice, and increasingly a requirement of funders, that – at the outset of a project or even at the grant application stage- researchers create and implement a Data Management Plan, which typically includes information on ‘what data will be created and how, and outlines the plans for sharing and preservation, noting what is appropriate given the nature of the data and any restrictions that may need to be applied’. [Source: Digital Curation Centre (DCC) website; section on Data Management Plans]. Such a plan will need to consider whether there are ethical, privacy or commercial issues which may prohibit making some or all of the data publicly available on Open Access. Any restrictions on access to any of the data should be justified in the plan, for example due to the terms of a commercial partnership agreement, which may include a non-disclosure agreement or an expectation that the data will be exploited commercially or has the potential to be patented.

These are the considerations that a researcher must take into account when deciding whether such research data could be made Open Access.

How I obtained this knowledge:

The Digital Curation Centre website contains some useful information. For example, I looked at its document ‘Policy-making for Research Data in Repositories: a Guide’, and also consulted the section on Data Management Plans, e.g. the ‘Checklist for a Data Management Plan’. I also consulted the University of Exeter’s Research and Knowledge Transfer webpages, in particular the ‘Intellectual property and commercialisation’ section of their Research Toolkit.

What else I would like to know about the topic:

I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of this topic, and would like to know more. I do not feel confident that I have got a clear understanding of the subject, nor that I would be able to help a researcher who asked me this question. I would refer a query on this subject to a member of the Open Exeter team, or to Research and Knowledge Transfer.

I would welcome expert guidance on where to find further information; a training session would be ideal, as I learn better in such an environment rather than via the self-directed learning method.

How I found the task and how I would improve it:

I found this task very difficult to research, as it is not an area for which I had any prior knowledge, nor have I had any enquiries from researchers about it.

It would have been much more helpful to have had a list of links to relevant resources to refer to as I performed the task. I really needed to be pointed in the right direction, at least to get me started; I don’t learn well when faced with a bare question with no context or background.

Posted under Holistic Librarian, Training

This post was written by Caroline Huxtable on January 4, 2013

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