better policies for managing research data


Research data management issues for funders

The principle that information already paid for by the public purse should not be paid for again each time it is accessed or used was invoked by the European Commission in its July 2012 Communication and Recommendation on access to scientific information. The current scholarly communication method of publishing in articles has up until now been relied upon to disseminate research results. The practice of publishing data is not as established. As a result many of the publicly funded research results that exist in the form of data are not made widely available for others to verify or build upon and this makes research investment inefficient. National Research Funders are looking to open data as they examine how to fully realise the potential of publicly funded research results for European companies and citizens. 

Progress to date

As the consensus that data generated from publicly funded research should be made openly available gains momentum many funding bodies have begun to mandate that researchers deposit their data in suitable data infrastructures and/or require that institutions/researchers include a Data Management Plan as part of their grant application. In Sweden for example a data management plan is required by the Swedish research council if data collection represents a significant part of a project. The purpose of this policy is to ensure future reuse of research data for others.

In 2011 the strategic partnership of the UK Research Councils (the RCUK) issued seven common principles on data policies which aimed to provide an overarching framework for individual research council policies on data.

The Opportunities for Data Exchange project (ODE) has produced a briefing sheet for research funders which outlines some steps about how to make data more openly available. This can be viewed here.

SIM4RDM Guidance and Resources

As part of its work determining the funding programmes and interventions already being used across different member states, SIM4RDM surveyed 20 research funders in the European area in the second quarter of 2012. Nearly half of the organisations surveyed reported having a funding policy covering data management. 25% responded that they require a data management plan as part of the grant application, 10% recommend it while 65% did not require one. 

Following implementation of its Evidence Gathering work package SIMRDM makes the following recommendations for research funding organisations:

  • As requirements set by research funders are the main drivers for institutions to establish data management plans SIM4RDM advocates that funding organisations encourage researchers to create a data management plan at a project proposal stage. 
  • As allocation of a certain portion of the grant for data management purposes is seen as an incentive for data re-use, SIM4RDM recommends allocating call funds for data management purposes. 
  • Funding organisations can advance research data management by designating data centres where research data should be stored 
  • Funding organisations can also issue instructions for writing the research data management plan and provide clear deliverables for research projects. In doing so the funding organisation should consider which elements of a Data management plan will actually assist researchers in their data management.