Research data management is important for institutions as well as researchers.
Funders ask that data underpinning publications, or any data with long term value, is made available. This is crucial for both verification and to maintain the integrity of the research. Shared data also allows researchers to replicate experiments efficiently and add to existing datasets.
What this means in practice is that your institution's data needs to be selected, curated, retained and stored, using appropriate metadata.
What you can do
Work out how well are you doing already
To maintain research integrity, institutions and researchers must ensure relevant data is archived, accessible and citable so that results can be verified or data reused in future.
Assess how well your institution is managing its research data using the CARDIO self-assessment tool.
Develop and ratify an institutional policy
A formal policy (examples of which are available on the DCC website) may help you manage research data effectively.
Policies are implemented differently according to local needs. The University of Edinburgh’s research data management policy outlines key points to which the university aspires. Others state responsibilities of both researchers and the institution, eg Oxford’s policy on research data and records management.
Provide support to your researchers
Many skills are required in managing research data.
Online courses developed with Jisc funding include RDMRose, which helps meet the specific needs of liaison librarians; Southampton's researcher support; and Edinburgh University’s MANTRA course for anyone doing research data management.
Create a plan
Most funders now require researchers to submit an outline data management plan with grant applications.
The DMPonline planning tool guides researchers with consideration for research funder policies. There is also a Digital Curation Centre (DCC) guide for institutions developing research data management services.
Make space for storage
We recommend subject repositories as the best option for curating research data. Repositories should be sustainable and have policies with adequately long term access to data. Regardless, your institution has a responsibility to make sure data is safeguarded and accessible, often through setting up a local repository with eprints software, Dspace or other solutions.
Use of cloud-based storage services is growing among researchers. Institutions must balance the ease of using an external service with the need for researchers to maintain control over their data. We have negotiated cloud framework agreements with suppliers such as Amazon Web Services.
Our guide to cloud computing offers a helpful introduction to this area.
Assess your research data
You can’t keep all the research data that is generated, so how do you decide what to keep?
Create ‘good’ metadata
Metadata, the extra information that surrounds research data, allows people to find, access and ultimately reuse data. DataCite is an important standard but other elements need to be considered.
Our blog demonstrates that common standards might improve discovery of datasets especially in cross-discipline data archives.
Tools such as University of California's Dash make it simple to describe, deposit and share research data publicly.
Be aware of compliance
EPSRC has explicitly outlined responsibilities it expects qualifying institutions to fulfil with respect to research data and our guidance suggests approaches that will help universities meet the requirements.
Don’t lose sight of legal requirements
Researchers know they need to anonymise sensitive data where relevant. There are processes that they abide by in terms of making ethical use of data, alongside compliance with Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation. Our practical consultancy service on information law, data protection and governance will help you stay on top of the legal landscape.
New data protection regulations from the EU will need to be complied with by May 2018. They will require more explicit consent for reuse of lawfully held personal data. See our data protection guide for more information.
Our report, directions in research data management (pdf) outlines a vision of where the sector should aim to be by 2020.
We're investing in the technical tools, software and service solutions to support researchers' workflows and the use and management of their data as part of our research data shared service development work. For more information contact our futures research team.