better policies for managing research data


Research data management issues for researchers

The European Communication “Towards better access to scientific information: Boosting the benefits of public investment in research” (2012) identifies the fact that up until now scientific research results have been disseminated primarily by publishing articles. There is no well-established practice of publishing the underlying data. According to research undertaken by the Parse-Insight project (2010) only 25% of researchers share their research data openly, 11% make it available for researchers within their research discipline and 58% make it available only within their specific research group. This is an area of increasing relevance to researchers as more and more funding organisations begin to attach data management conditions to grants. Researchers are often hesitant about sharing their data in the belief that others may unfairly benefit from their work. The process of preparing data for sharing is also perceived as labour intensive and in the absence of clear citation mechanisms, difficult. The lack of a clear incentive for sharing data is another major barrier. The EC addresses this issue in the 2012 recommendation  calling for the adjustment of recruitment and career evaluation system for researchers and the evaluation system for awarding research grants so that those who participate in the culture of sharing results are rewarded.

Research to date 

The Riding the Wave report published in 2010 called for the development of a collaborative data infrastructure that will enable researchers and other stakeholders from education, society and business to use, re-use and exploit research data to the maximum benefit of science and society. The  SURFboard for Riding the Wave report published in 2011 noted that in order for such an ambitious plan to succeed it needs the involvement of all stakeholders from the scientific community. It identified the need to train researchers in their role as data producers and users of information infrastructures. The report recommended that basic skills with regard to data handling should be a core academic competency. 

The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) in the UK and the Danish Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) are two organisations that provide data curation and management support to their respective researcher communities with the objective of strengthening the skills base in this area. The DCC provides assistance in drafting data management plans, training, case studies and briefing papers.

DANS offers a similar service. In April 2012 DANS drew up a Data Management Plan which can be used by researchers/principal investigators as a checklist in the early stages of a data collection project. DANS also offers researchers the safe storage option of using its free archive EASY.

The ODE project is an FP7 funded project consisting of the members in the Alliance for Permanent Access (APA) which supports the investment for data re-use, sharing and preservation. ODE has produced a briefing sheet for researchers which can be viewed here. This resource encourages researchers to identify the best providers of data stewardship within their discipline and to cooperate with them to establish the most useful data formats and descriptions (metadata) that enable their data to be discovered and re-used.   

The ODE has also published the following two reports which are of relevance to the research community:

SIM4RDM Guidance and Resources

As part of its evidence gathering work package SIM4RDM will produce a landscape study of interventions already  in place or planned for improving data management skills, support and capacity.  This study will be augmented by a set of in-depth validation interviews with researchers from a range of different disciplines in partner countries. Once available this document will be published on this site.