Section 8 of 8
Image: Limitless by Jersey Cameraman
Your data may be used and re-used, either by yourself or by others in your field. Sharing the results of research is an established academic practice and the increasing digitisation of research means that it's easier now to share data than ever before. Data sharing may seem daunting at first; researchers commonly fear they'll lose their competitive edge and are concerned that others will misinterpret their data. However, there are many benefits to be gained:
A PLOS ONE study of 85 cancer microarray clinical trial publications discovered that making research data publicly available can significantly increase citation rates (independently of journal impact factor, date of publication, and author country of origin) and thereby improve the profile of research.
- Answer: B. Publishing data was associated with a 69% increase in citation rates.
Read more about the PLOS ONE study.
Beyond these benefits there may also be specific requirements for you to share your data, as many research funders now expect data to be shared wherever possible. The requirement to share data has been underlined by the Research Councils UK (now UKRI) policy, which came into force on 1st April 2013 and states that research papers which result from research that is wholly or partly funded by the Research Councils must include details of the underlying research materials - such as data, and how it can be accessed.
There is also a growing trend to link publications to the datasets which underpin the findings. Some publishers, such as the Nature Publishing Group, require authors to make data available as a condition of publication.
You can share your data by depositing it with specialist data centres, archives and repositories who will either publish it openly online, or offer some form of controlled access. The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) has a list of UK data centres arranged by subject discipline, so you can check if there's provision in your field.
Preservation is about ensuring that the data you share, either directly or via a 3rd party, remains fit for secondary use in the longer term (e.g. 10 years post-project). It might seem tempting to preserve all of your data in the long term, just in case you need it in the future. In most instances, however, not all data will need to be kept beyond the lifetime of a project. In practical terms, preserving all your files for the foreseeable future could prove very expensive.
It may be difficult to determine which project data are going to be wanted, or useful in the future. Deciding what to keep and what to dispose of, or delete, is an important decision. You should approach this selection process with care and abide by any policies that are laid down by the funder, documenting the decisions made and the reasons for them.
As a member of a publicly-funded university if you keep something on file, it might later be subject to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request or an Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) request. These regulations include a number of exemptions that allow information to be withheld where appropriate. However, you could be required to release information about your research based on either of these requests.
Thank you for taking the time to read about research data. As we move into an era of 'open knowledge', 'e-science' and 'big data' the topics discussed here become ever more significant.
If you'd like to continue learning about research data management the University Research Data Service offers a number of other training opportunities. Please refer to our Research Support Training page for more details.