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Sharing data

Authors are increasingly finding that sharing data is no longer an activity hastily brought about at the early stage of a research project to enable the ‘proper’ work of research analysis to begin. Many journals require information about access to the data used, which may mean authors need to know who owns it and how to share it. EPSRC also expects published research papers to include a short statement describing how and on what terms any supporting research data may be accessed (Policy Framework 2011) and it has announced that it would like to see the expectation met by 1 May 2015.

Most ARCC research projects share data to some extent, because projects are multi-institutional. Different universities have a variety of approaches and external partner organisations may have commercial sensitivities, security issues and/or licensing requirements. ARCC has experience of sharing data to great effect. A project may use data from an external institution to initiate a model written by a university to be run at another under scenarios created somewhere else. The result can be the application of the model to a wider range of policy questions or operational decisions than a single institution could achieve.

Systematic approaches to data sharing help in several ways. They can aid citation of data, help other researchers use the data after its creator has moved on, and build effective working relationships with external data suppliers. It’s even possible to publish data directly, and so get credit for the working of creating the data itself, such us through Earth System Science Data which has been running since 2008, and RMetS’s Geoscience Data Journal. Nature is now getting in on the act with ‘Scientific Data’.

As the Data & Information Strategy Officer for the ARCC Coordination Network I am investigating:

  • What data ARCC projects have created, who owns them and where they are stored
  • Current practices and drivers of research data management
  • Alternatives and their benefits as well as the effort required to deliver them
  • Successful examples of portals, repositories and catalogues

I would be pleased to hear from researchers and stakeholders in EPSRC-funded projects on the built environment and infrastructure, about data sharing successes or problems. The successes will be evidence of what works for developing ARCC’s future data and information management strategy. As my investigations progress, I intend to become increasingly able to give advice on solving the problems.

5 thoughts on “Sharing data”

  1. Is there something that could be done to help devise a “data-sharing policy template” that can be used at the outset of an EPSRC-funded project that encapsulates the EPSRC Policy Framework Guidelines, and any institution-specific guidelines on research data management? This could subsequently be extended for something specific related to the nature of the data being shared, or the nature of the project itself. Stakeholders external to academia can be interested in a project and want to get involved, but can find themselves reluctant because they are not made aware in a clear (couple of pages) and concise manner the likely implications in the future of them sharing data in the present i.e. where will this data reside; who will have access; are there other projects who may request access currently etc? Whilst these kinds of questions can be specific to the data being shared or contributed from a stakeholder, there must be some commonalities across institutions and projects that could be drawn out to help facilitate the process. Or maybe not…just a thought.

  2. Thank you for your comments David. It’s great to have feedback. Yes, I’m sure there is something I could do with colleagues in the ARCC coordination network here at Oxford to create a data-sharing policy template for EPSRC-funded projects. A challenge will be to ensure it can be flexible enough to respond to the changing environment of institutional policy and research data management.

  3. I like the suggestion of a data-sharing policy template. I also think there is scope to share best practice with ESRC (who have had a data repository requirement for some time) and MRC (who have been dealing with sharing confidential data for many years). I think it would be worthwhile to create a cross-RCUK guidance document on data depositories and sharing – assuming one does not already exist of course (which I assume it does not).

  4. Thank you very much for your comments. We have been working on the ‘data-sharing policy template’ this afternoon. My first attempt is more of a guide than a template, but we’ll see what you and others think of it and amend as required…more soon. I have found several examples of good practice at ESRC eg RELU but haven’t looked at MRC yet. We’re going to focus on guidance for EPSRC, as the funder of the ARCC Network, but I am trying to keep in touch with other RCUK policies and guides.

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