The Holistic Librarian – Thing 10

Hi, I’m Diane Workman and I’m the Subject Librarian for Drama, English, Film Studies and Theology & Religion.

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

Task 10 was to research the answer to the question: “A researcher has used a secondary data set in their research. In which circumstances would she be able to put this on Open Access?”

What I knew about the topic beforehand:

I was unsure where to begin with this one, but felt that I should explore issues of Intellectual Property Rights (in relation to the original data creator) and ethics (in relation to the consent provided by participants in the original data collection).

What I know now:

It’s important to know the copyright situation for the data set that is being re-used. The researcher should establish whether the data set is still covered by copyright, and who the copyright owner is. Once they know this, they can contact the copyright owner to seek permission to publish their data set on an Open Access (OA ) basis. It’s possible that the original creator may have made their material freely available for re-use in one or both of the following ways:

  • By applying a Creative Commons licence
  • By depositing in a data centre with an OA policy

It’s also important to be clear about what informed consent was obtained from the participants in the original data collection by the data creator. Any consent form signed by them should have outlined any likely re-uses of the data, ideally specifying publication of the data set in an OA repository. This relies heavily on the original data creator making good provisions for the sharing and future use of the data that they collect, something that researchers should consider when developing their Data Management Plan. The University of Glasgow acknowledges that the process of placing data sets on OA may not always be straightforward:

“There can be a tension between abiding by data protection legislation and ethical guidelines, whilst fulfilling funder and public expectations to make research results available.” [Source: University of Glasgow website; section on data protection legislation and ethics].

How did I obtain this knowledge?:

I consulted several websites during the research for this question. It required reading around research data management more generally, as it relates to several issues. The following websites were all useful:

The Digital Curation Centre, and in particular their section on digital curation

The Incremental Project, part of the JISC Managing Research Data programme

The University of Cambridge Support for Managing Research Data web pages, one of the Incremental Project partners

The University of Glasgow Data Management Support for Researchers web pages, the other Incremental Project partner

The UK Data Archive at the University of Essex, and in particular their section on consent and ethics

What else would I like to know about this topic:

It would be useful to know more about the implications of the Data Protection Act on the re-use of data by researchers.

How did I find this task? How would I improve it?

This was the most difficult of the tasks that I was set, as there is no clear answer. Anything relating to IPR is usually not straightforward, and was further complicated when combined with the ethical aspect of the question. No single source provided an answer to the question, so it was necessary to draw my own conclusions based on the range of information sources consulted.

Posted under Holistic Librarian

This post was written by Diane Workman on January 25, 2013

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1 Comment so far

  1. Hannah Lloyd-Jones January 29, 2013 09:48

    Hi Diane,

    Did you come to Caroline Dominey’s talk on the Data Protection Act and how it affects storage and sharing of research data during Open Access Week 2012? If not, the slides are here: and could be interesting for you!

    Kind regards,


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