Research data management is important for institutions as well as researchers.
Funders now ask that data underpinning published results, and any data with long term value, is made available. This is crucial for both the verification of those results and to maintain the integrity of the research. The data also allows researchers to replicate experiments efficiently and add to existing datasets.
What this means in practice is that 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 and data reused in future.
Assess how well your institution is managing its research data using the CARDIO self-assessment tool.
Our case studies show what institutions are doing to meet expectations of the EPSRC research data policy framework.
Develop and ratify an institutional policy
A formal policy may help you manage research data effectively.
Policies are implemented differently according to local needs. Some are aspirational: the University of Edinburgh’s 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 include RDMRose, which helps meet the specific needs of liaison librarians; Southampton’s training supporting researchers; and Edinburgh University’s course for anyone wishing to better understand research data management.
Our training materials for postgraduate and early career researchers include self-access modules for IT professionals, a self-study course for librarians, and a blended learning course for research liaison librarians.
Create a plan
Most funders require researchers to submit an outline data management plan with grant applications.
The DMPonline planning tool guides researchers with consideration for research funder policies.
The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) has produced a guide for institutions developing research data management services.
Make space for storage
We recommend a subject repository as the best option for curating research data as long as it is sustainable and has policies with adequately long term access to data. Regardless, the institution has the responsibility to make sure data is safeguarded and is accessible, often through eprints software, Dspace or other solutions.
Use of cloud-based storage services is growing among researchers. Any decision to use it needs to 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.
Previous work has concluded that such common standards might improve discovery of datasets especially in cross-discipline data archives.
Tools such as Dash from the University of California make it simpler to describe, deposit and share research data publicly.
Be aware of compliance
All research councils have data management policies, based on a set of common principles formulated by RCUK. EPSRC has explicitly outlined the 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 are aware of the need to anonymise sensitive data where relevant, and clearly there are processes that they abide by in terms of making ethical use of data, alongside compliance with Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation. Our Q&A addresses questions a researcher might ask when faced with a FoI request.
There are current proposals within the EU for new data protection regulations which are likely to require more explicit consent for reuse of lawfully held personal data. For more information follow the debate on Computer Weekly.
Directions in research data management for UK universities outlines a vision of where the sector should aim to be in five years time.
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 at risk work. For more information contact our futures research team.