Storing, Sharing and Securing Data

by Kerry Hope

‘Our understanding of the human brain can be dramatically accelerated if we collect and share research data on an exponentially wider scale’

– Tan Le

Continuing with the data management planning theme from the last blog, and the very helpful knowledge from the Research Data Team, I wanted to elaborate on open research and why we should do everything we can to make our data accessible.

‘Open data’ is freely and openly shared research data, offering full usage rights to users. Open data is vital for advancements in research:

  • Benefits individuals, the whole research community and wider society
  • Helps maintain research integrity
  • Enables validation of results
  • Increases visibility of research profiles by sharing data, resulting in an increase in citations and potential new collaborations
  • Enables the public to access publicly-funded research

The key to open data is its preservation, and this is where a data management plan comes in, as it will help ensure the data is suitable for sharing, and accessible.

So what exactly should we be sharing? ‘Research data’ includes all of the information that is used in research, irrespective of format, including:

  • Structured data e.g. tables, databases etc.
  • Unstructured data e.g. images, audio recordings, personal notes, emails, software scripts etc.

Data management is the organisation of the information used within a project’s lifecycle. This involves advance planning, effective day-to-day management practices, and most importantly a long-term strategy for the preservation and sharing of data after a project has been completed.

Research requirements at the University of Exeter state that:

  • Research management is the responsibility of the entire research team
  • All research proposals should include a data management plan
  • Research data management is a valid cost to include in research proposals (where allowed by the research funder)
  • Data is deposited in an appropriate repository after project completion

Research requirements from funders typically state that:

  • A data management plan should be submitted when applying for funding
  • Data is openly shared after after project completion – store in a repository and ensure data has minimal or no access restrictions
  • Underlying research data is made openly available in a timely manner
  • Long-term preservation of data is undertaken – usually for a minimum of 10 years

To check on specific funder’s research requirements you can use this link.

The UKRI has three guiding principles regarding open data:

  • Publicly funded data is a public good, produced in the public interest and should be made openly available with as few restrictions as possible
  • Sufficient meta-data and documentation should be recorded and made openly available to enable others to discover, understand and re-use data. Published results should always include information on how to access the supporting data (a data access statement)
  • The use of public funds to support the management and sharing of publicly funded research is acceptable because of the far-reaching benefits to the wider community. Mechanisms for sharing should be efficient and cost-effective.

The Research Data Team have many helpful resources available, including DMP Online – a web-based tool for creating data management plans. See Chris’ demonstration of this from 15:40 minutes here.

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