November 23, 2011

Thing 14: The Research Data Challenge

So far this week our ‘things’ have focused on making publications available in open access in one way or another but there is another growing area of open access that is becoming increasingly important; open access to research data. Traditionally it had been possible to publish research data alongside the journal article/book chapter describing the research; however with the changes in technology and the sheer scale of the data involved it is not always practical or possible to share data in this way. Research data is not just the quantitative data produced by scientific instruments, it can also be artifacts, transcripts of interviews, lists of archival materials, lab books and notes, specimens and sample, photographs, videotapes and more.

Research Data Lifecycle

Managing your research data is an important part of the research process and the past year has seen the introduction of ‘data management plans’ (DMPs) as a requirement of new funding applications. This process ideally begins with a DMP before the start of the project and before any data is created. These plans allow you to consider a number of issues and who has responsibility for the data at each stage, for example:

  • What data will be created and in what format?
  • What are the legal or ethical issues associated with the data?
  • Where do the intellectual property rights lie with the data?

Once the research begins the DMP can help researchers to make important decision about storage and back-ups for the research data. At he end of the project the DMP can also guide the researchers in the most appropriate way to select what data they need to store and want to share. The UK Data Archive has created a really useful guide to all the steps in the life cycle.

Research data is an incredibly valuable resource and in many cases can have multiple uses after the end of the original project. Sharing research data after the end of the project can encourage further research branching from the original project; can lead to new collaborations; encourages the transparency and the improvement of research practice; can reduce the cost of further data collection and as always can increase your profile as a research output in its own right in the same way as a journal article or book chapter. Research funders, such as the Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust have added the requirement for data sharing as a condition of funding, in the same way as they have mandated open access to other research outputs.

Increasingly data this made available is being made available in data centres and through systematic services who are focused on not only storing the data but increasing the ability of researchers to reuse and cite the data enabling researchers to easily give credit to the original creators of the research. It is well worth reading through some of the resources in the further information section and thinking about what this change in the scholarly process could mean for you.

To complete this thing write a blog post about what you’ve learned about the research data challenge and how it might affect your research.

Further information:

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