Research data is unique and fundamental to each research project – an intimate part of the research process. Yet research bodies are asking for Research Data Management (RDM) plans. Funders, publishers and your university want to know what you are doing with your research data. They are also telling you that you must share. All the major research institutions are publishing RDMt policies and the key drivers are online sharing, and the ability to reproduce research findings. Funders, publishers and universities recognise that:
“Research Data is … central to research and disseminating, sharing and enabling access to research data are all now seen as essential to research integrity. Making research data accessible does not simply facilitate validation, it also supports new research and innovation.” (JISC March 2015)
Allowing for legal, ethical and commercial exceptions, researchers are expected to make as much data as possible openly accessible. This requires extra work to anonymise, clean and prepare their data for the use of other scholars. Some researchers will be asking ‘Why should I have to do this?’.
Why should I plan for RDM?
The key reward for managing your data is that you don’t lose it. Stories relating to lost laptops with an entire PhD’s worth of data are common. htttps://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2011/08/01/why-you-need-a-data-management-plan/ ). A RDM plan outlining the use of secure live storage and back-up facilities won’t prevent loss, but it may inspire awareness of the need for care.
“Accidental losses often have one very important factor in common, for in over half of the cases of accidental loss we investigated, the data had been lost in a pub or restaurant! Files, bags, laptops and memory sticks have all been lost in this environment.”
Other benefits are those that go with any kind of good housekeeping:
- You can find your data when you need them
- You have a record of your work and you will get recognition for it
- You will earn the respect and gratitude of your colleagues
- You will be a more efficient researcher
- You will attract collaborators
Other scholars will be able to easily replicate your analysis and validate your findings. Proven integrity and enhanced reputation is an essential part in attracting future funding. Besides, well-managed data will contribute to your citation scores as extra outputs:
“Research data, if correctly formatted, described and attributed, will have significant ongoing value and can continue to have impact long after the completion of a research project.”
An RDM plan also means that you will have met the mandates and policies of your funders, your publishers and your University. Thus giving yourself an easier life.
RCUK funders subscribe to a set of common principles on RDM described in the Concordat on Open Research Data. The principles require that researchers plan to ensure their data are “accessible and usable” to preserve long-term value. RCUK also notes that legal, ethical and commercial interests are considered in deciding when and how to release data. AHRC has joined the other RCUK funders in requiring a Research Data Management Plan as part of the grant application process. The RDM Plan will replace the Technical Plan and its requirements are supported by DCC guidance. The AHRC Data Management Points assume the existence of an institutional Research Data Management Policy which addresses the key points of RDM as described by the DCC. The University of Kent’s RDM policy is in line with RCUK expectations. Funder policies on Research Data can be found using JISC’s SHERPA/Juliet service.
Publishers also require that the data supporting publications’ findings are available and accessible. RDM planning is essential so that “others should be able to replicate and build upon the authors’ published claims”:
“A condition of publication in a Nature Research journal is that authors are required to make materials, data, code, and associated protocols promptly available to readers without undue qualifications.” (Nature, Policies)
Why archive my data?
A key element of every RDM plan is the choice of a secure and compliant archive where data can be kept safe and accessible after the project closes. Re3data.org lists research data archives that meet minimum standards in curating data and making them accessible. and describes how each makes the datasets archived persistent, unique and citable. Each archive listed is checked against criteria to ensure it meets these standards. Funders and publishers state that data must be deposited in ‘recognised community repositories” like those listed in re3data.org and some provide their own – such as Wellcome Open Research
A key advantage of using these archives is that they will care for and manage your data – without you needing to take any action at all. This means that:
- You will have met the mandates and policies of your funder, publisher and your university with confidence
- Your data will have a permanent URL and a Digital object identifier so it can be reliably cited
- Your data will be available for other scholars to use and cite in their work – not only does this save public money it means you a credited for your contribution
- Your data will be available for the long term, long after you have moved on and cannot recall the details
- You will not need to send it to colleagues across the globe – they will be able to download what they need from the archive
- If you do need to restrict the data, you know that your data will be safe and your reasons for doing so will be clear
- Use of accredited archive supports your integrity for funders, publisher and employers and also for colleagues and the participants in your research
Not every researcher has access to a secure and compliant archive. The University of Kent provides the Kent Data Repository (KDR) as an accredited data archive for researchers at Kent who have no access to a suitable external data archive. KDR also serves as a registry of data created at Kent but archived elsewhere. Not every dataset will be archived in KDR but it is intended to serve as a point of confidence so that we will know where all our data is kept. If you have archived or registered your data on KDR you will have met the mandates and expectations of your funders and publishers. Moreover, you will be future proofing your research practice. As a supporter of the Concordat on Open Research data, HEFCE has demonstrated support for these principles. They say that a positive attitude to RDM and shared data will be rewarded in the REF 2021 research environment assessment and it is anticipated that research data will have a higher profile in subsequent REF exercises. Hefce says:
KDR is at the centre of Research Data Management support at the University of Kent. Information Services staff are here to talk about your data needs throughout the research cycle. KDR is in development and we welcome your input and help with ensuring we are meeting the needs of our researchers. Come and talk to us about your research data.