New UK Concordat on Open Research Data

  • What is this talk about open data?
  • Why do I have to complete a data management plan when I apply for grant funding?
  • What am I supposed to do with my data?

If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions, then take a look at the Concordat on Open Research Data, published in July of this year.

Where does it come from?

The Concordat was developed by HEFCE, RCUK, Universities UK and the Wellcome Trust in consultation with members of the UK research community.

Who is it for?

It is aimed at, and relevant to, all stakeholders in UK academic research: policy-makers, funders, research organisations, publishers, and, of course: RESEARCHERS, in ALL disciplines and at ALL stages of their careers.

But I don’t use research data, so it’s not relevant to me, is it?

The Concordat is mostly relevant to those research activities that collect or generate primary data, whether through experimentation, observation, modelling, interview or other methods, or by the processing of existing data sources. It is also relevant for digital humanities research, where digital outputs and technologies are produced.

So the Concordat is relevant to most research activities. Possible exceptions are where research is purely theoretical, or as in some humanist disciplines, where research involves the consultation of published and archived materials solely for the purposes of interpretation, criticism or review.

What is the Concordat?

It is a set of 10 principles designed to ensure that research data gathered and generated by members of the UK research community are, wherever possible (with due regard to relevant legal, ethical and other restrictions) made openly available for use by others.

The systems, norms and practices necessary to realise an open research data culture are in many respects at an early stage of evolution. The Concordat promotes a shared understanding among stakeholders in research of the benefits of open data and their responsibilities for contributing to the full realisation of an open data culture. It articulates the underlying rationale for the research data policies of key research funders such as the Research Councils and the University’s own Research Data Management Policy, introduced in March 2015.

Why share data?

There are two key reasons why all stakeholders in a healthy research culture should subscribe to the principles of open research data:

  • Research integrity: if you publish results or claims based on your research, it should be possible for other parties to independently replicate or verify your findings by consulting the underlying evidence;
  • Benefits for research and society: data arising from publicly-funded research are a public good, and where they have the potential to be re-used by others (researchers, commercial users, government, the general public) and to generate further value, they should be made findable, accessible and usable.

The Concordat: some fundamental tenets

  • Open access to research data should be the presumed default in all cases;
  • Legal, ethical and commercial reasons for restricting access to research data may exist, but must be justified;
  • The right of first use belongs to the data creators – but is not indefinite and should not extend beyond publication of main results;
  • Use of others’ data should conform to legal and ethical requirements and be properly acknowledged;
  • Management and curation of research data for long-term use is fundamental to the research process and should be integrated from the outset;
  • Data supporting publications should be accessible by the publication date (in many cases through deposit in a data repository) and should be in a citeable form.

What should you do?

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