1 Concordat On Open Research Data Version 10 July 17 th 2015 This document contains the substantive text of the Concordat On Open Research Data that has been developed by a UK multi-stakeholder group. This concordat will help to ensure that the research data gathered and generated by members of the UK research community is made openly available for use by others wherever possible in a manner consistent with relevant legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks and norms. In this concordat, the following definition has been adopted: Research Data are quantitative information or qualitative statements collected by researchers in the course of their work by experimentation, observation, interview or other methods. Data may be raw or primary (e.g. direct from measurement or collection) or derived from primary data for subsequent analysis or interpretation (e.g. cleaned up or as an extract from a larger data set). The purpose of open research data is to provide the information necessary to support or validate a research project's observations, findings or outputs. Data may include, for example, statistics, collections of digital images, sound recordings, transcripts of interviews, survey data and fieldwork observations with appropriate annotations.
2 Introduction Most researchers collect, measure, process and analyse data - in the form of sets of values of qualitative or quantitative variables and use a wide range of hardware and software to assist them to do so as a core activity in the course of their research. Such data, along with the associated software, is indeed a valuable result in itself of the research process. This concordat will help to ensure that the research data gathered and generated by members of the UK research community is made openly available for use by others wherever possible in a manner consistent with relevant legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks and norms. The societal benefits from making research data open are potentially very significant; including economic growth, increased resource efficiency, securing public support for research funding and increasing public trust in research. All those engaged with research have a responsibility to ensure that the data they generate is properly managed, and made accessible, intelligible, assessable and usable by others unless there are strong reasons to the contrary. Commitment to the principles set out in the concordat will help demonstrate to government, business, international partners and the wider public that they can expect to see research data made open for the benefit of all where appropriate. Such commitment will also ensure that the results of research are properly open to scrutiny, with the data that underlies the concepts and arguments set out in published papers made accessible for testing and validation by other researchers; and the vital principle of scientific selfcorrection will thus be reinforced. The intention [of the Concordat] is to establish sound principles which respect the needs of all parties. It is not the intention to mandate, codify or require specific activities, but to establish a set of expectations of good practice with the intention of establishing open research data as the desired position for publicly-funded research over the long-term. It provides assurances of the standards expected of all stakeholders, identifying ten principles with which all those engaged with research should be able to work. By making a commitment to act in accordance with the principles outlined in this concordat, the research community can demonstrate that they: are acting in an appropriate manner concerning research data. conform to all ethical, legal and professional obligations relevant to their work nurture a research environment that makes data open wherever possible. use transparent, robust and fair processes to make decisions concerning data openness have appropriate mechanisms in place to provide assurances as to the integrity of their research data Following a similar process to that outlined in other UK concordats, this concordat recognises the different responsibilities of researchers, their employers, and funders of research. It also recognises the vital role that others play in this, including professional, statutory and regulatory bodies; journals
3 and publishers; academies and learned societies. By outlining these responsibilities, the concordat helps stakeholders to understand clearly the roles they play in producing the economic and social benefits of increased access to research data, delivering meaningful efficiency gains through the open sharing of data between researchers, and building public trust in the integrity of published research. These principles recognise that there may be legitimate constraints on openness, but also that openness implies much more than mere disclosure of data. As the Royal Society argued in its 2012 report Science as an Open Enterprise, intelligent openness requires that data must be readily discoverable and accessible; made intelligible to those who may wish to scrutinise it; and provided with sufficient metadata and background material to make it assessable and usable. Open access to research data therefore carries implications for cost and there will need to be trade-offs that reflect value for money and use. The concordat: Applies to all fields of research - The principles outlined in the concordat are relevant to all disciplines in which research data is gathered and analysed. Emphasises responsibilities and accountabilities - The concordat implies the need for cooperation between different stakeholders and identifies the different roles they play in supporting open research data. The best way to ensure that open research data becomes a reality for research in the UK is for all those involved to acknowledge and discharge their specific responsibilities and to work together towards developing a sustainable open research data environment. Recognises the autonomy of researchers - researchers are a diverse group of people operating in many different cultures and contexts. They must have the freedom to strengthen policies and procedures relating to research and research data as appropriate to their circumstances: there can be no one size fits all approach. The concordat provides a flexible framework to help researchers ensure that they are able to fully discharge their responsibilities and to help employers ensure they have the mechanisms in place to meet the highest standards. Complements existing frameworks - Extensive statutory and regulatory standards already exist to govern research practice and data access where it is deemed necessary. Similarly, conditions of grant from funding bodies will often be accompanied by specific guidelines and that themselves create obligations. The concordat does not supersede or replace these, but addresses directly the issues related to open research data.
4 Principle #1 Open access to research data is an enabler of high quality research, a facilitator of innovation and safeguards good research practice. New technologies mean that researchers are creating and using new kinds of data in volumes unimaginable only a couple of decades ago. In many fields, existing data is already widely shared and there are a number of excellent examples of open data sharing in fields such as crystallography, archaeology and linguistics. These early adopters have benefitted both in terms of progressing science but also in enhancing resource efficiency and therefore securing funder support for their efforts. In addition to establishing practical arrangements for making research open, these fields have developed a culture of transparency and sharing; and that is a powerful asset in protecting against research fraud or innocent mistakes. These actions also enhance the reputation of the institutions in which the research is being undertaken. Access to data across many fields is also stimulating new types of thinking as researchers develop new understandings by bringing together data from a variety of sources. This is enabling new perspectives on multi-disciplinary problems across a wide variety of fields from the life sciences, engineering and physical sciences to the arts, humanities and social sciences. In many instances, it is the linking of data from a range of public and commercial bodies alongside the data generated by academic researchers that is enabling the most exciting insights in, for example, the application of technology to complex sustainability related issues such as transport. There is now wide-spread evidence that open data can underpin innovation, for example when researchers with fresh perspectives use data in unexpected ways or when companies use data to help them develop new products. This can lead to substantial economic benefits and help growth. The concordat thus takes as its starting axiom that making research data openly available for use by others is an inherent good with many benefits. Within this new paradigm, the following expectations will be established: Researchers will make their research data open and usable within a short-well-defined period, which may vary by subject and disciplinary area Employers of Researchers will seek to provide appropriate access to infrastructure systems and services to enable their researchers to make research data open and usable. Funders of Research will support open research data through the provision of appropriate resources as an acknowledged research cost.
5 Principle #2 Good data management is fundamental to all stages of the research process and should be established at the outset. The careful management of data throughout the research process is crucial if the data arising from research projects is to be rendered openly accessible, intelligible, assessable and usable. It is essential therefore that the management of research data is considered from the beginning of the research process and due consideration is given to how research data are to be managed. It is expected that research organisations should provide access to the necessary infrastructure to enable researchers to manage their data effectively, and provide guidance to individual researchers on the correct and relevant data management and storage methodologies for that research field. Individual researchers should consider how they will manage the data they collect and generate at an early stage of conceptualising their research programmes, and take advice from relevant experts on best practice in their field. A properly considered and appropriate research data management strategy should be in place before the research begins so that no data is lost or stored inappropriately. Wherever possible, project plans should specify whether, when and how data will be will be made openly available. The importance of training in research data management cannot be overstated as an enabler of open research data, and all researchers should receive such training at an early stage in their careers, along with subsequent updating as appropriate (see Principle 9 below). Principle #3 Data must be curated so that they are accessible, discoverable and useable. In order to make data open, it must be not only accessible, but also discoverable and useable. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as through peer review, adherence to community-specific data formats and standards, deposition in specific repositories and through appropriate descriptions, or dedicated data articles in journal publications. However, these methodologies may vary according to subject and disciplinary fields, types of data, and the circumstances of individual projects. Hence the exact choice of methodology should not be mandated. In most cases, research data can be made accessible via data repositories and web interfaces, provided these repositories are able to guarantee permanence of the datasets for a reasonable time period (see Principle 8). In many cases an appropriate accessible data summary or description a landing page or dedicated data article with sufficient metadata could be the gateway to access or facilitate a request for the full data set. It is envisaged that tools to discover data (e.g. specialised search tools and perhaps subject catalogues) and to integrate data with the peer-reviewed literature will develop further to help potential users locate relevant data. It is essential therefore that research data is made open with appropriate metadata, using open standards, in a manner that is consistent with the use of such tools.
6 Open research data should also be prepared in such a manner that it is as widely useable as is reasonably possible, at least for specialists in the same or linked fields, wherever they are in the world. Any requirement to use specialised software or obscure data manipulations should be avoided wherever possible. Data should be stored in non-proprietary formats wherever possible, or the most commonly used proprietary formats if no equivalent non-proprietary format exists. Principle #4 Open access to research data carries a significant cost, which should be respected by all parties. Whilst the benefits of open research data are real and achievable, the necessary costs - for IT infrastructure and services, administrative and specialist support staff, and for researchers time - are significant. Some but not all of the capital costs for infrastructure may be incorporated into planned upgrades. But the additional and continuing revenue costs to sustain services and rising volumes of data for the long term are real and substantial. It is therefore vital that consideration of cost forms an important part of any obligation arising from the move to open research data. Such costs should be proportionate to real benefits. The costs should not fall disproportionally on any part of the research community. Rather, all parties should work together to identify the appropriate resource provider whilst recognising the obligation to reduce costs through sensible design of both obligations and infrastructure. For research organisations such as Universities or Research Institutes, these costs are likely to be a prime consideration in the early stages of the move to making research data open. Both IT infrastructure costs and the on-going costs of training for researchers and for specialist staff, such as data curation experts, are expected to be significant over time. Principle #5 There are sound reasons why the openness of research data may need to be restricted but any restrictions must be justified and justifiable. Making particular sets of research data openly available may in some cases not be in the public interest, and therefore it may be legitimate to restrict access and availability in a variety of ways and for a range of reasons. The research community values highly the involvement of companies in collaborative research which brings substantial societal benefits through innovation leading to economic growth. It is important that open research data creates no negative incentives that might dissuade companies from collaborating with universities and other research organisations. It is reasonable for companies sponsoring research to expect that research data will be made openly available if doing so creates no significant commercial disadvantage to them. There is therefore a need to develop protocols on when and how data that may be commercially sensitive should be made openly accessible, taking account of the weight and nature of contributions to the funding of collaborative research projects, and providing an appropriate balance between openness and commercial incentives.
7 There are also clearly reasonable grounds for the withholding of research data from the public domain if doing so would compromise individual confidentiality or constitute an invasion of personal privacy, or create security risks. Again, protocols should be developed on whether and if so how data that relates to or derives from individuals can or should be made available to people outside the original research team. These should draw upon well-established models and good practices for managed access to data, and always be proportionate to the level of risk associated with the particular data holding. These protocols will have to take full account of legal, regulatory and ethical requirements, and the various relevant codes on research ethics and research integrity. There may be other valid reasons to restrict access to data, including cases where the costs of preserving the data are disproportionate, or the need to protect sensitive environmental sites. In addition, data should not be shared if it would infringe copyright, IPR ownership, confidentiality requirements or any other legal restrictions. It is important, however, that constraints on openness arising from the kinds of considerations outlined here should not be applied on a blanket basis but must be justified and justifiable case by case. Research organisations or individual researchers withholding data must therefore consider carefully the grounds on which they are acting and be prepared to justify their actions. Decisions on withholding data should not generally be made by individual researchers but rather through a verifiable and transparent process at an appropriate institutional level. Principle #6 The right of the creators of research data to reasonable first use is recognised. The creation of original research data may often require significant expertise and hard work over many years. It is obvious that any undermining of the incentive to undertake such work would have a significantly negative impact on the advancement of global research and knowledge. Therefore it is vital that the transition to open data must not reduce the willingness of researchers to undertake the journey to generate original research. In some disciplines, such as astronomy and genomics, immediate sharing of research data is expected and provides significant benefits. If researchers across all disciplines were to be required to make newly-generated data or analyses of that data available immediately, however, many may conclude that there is little advantage in pursuing original data-gathering, measurements or analyses. Rather it would be easier to simply wait for others to undertake the work and then to take advantage of their data. Such a situation would clearly be undesirable. To prevent such negative outcomes, researchers who generate original data must have reasonable right of first use for a short and well-defined period, which may vary by subject and disciplinary area. This should include an understanding that researchers first need to verify newly-obtained data (generally by repeating measurements) before they themselves can use the data for publications or other outcomes. It should be noted, however, that even in disciplines where immediate sharing is not the norm, there may be circumstances in which research data should be made immediately open in the public
8 interest, for example when it may be of significance and value in dealing with a public health emergency. In some circumstances, this right of first use could include the withholding of initial datasets until later related datasets have been developed. This could be justifiable if such an action were to advance conceptual understanding of central concepts carrying implications for the research field, or in studies that address long-term changes or developments. This justification should not be used without serious consideration undertaken prior to the commencement of the long-term study; and in all cases data supporting and underlying publications should be accessible by the publication date in citeable form (see Principle 8). Production of open research data should be formally acknowledged as a legitimate output of the research process and should be recognised as such by employers, research funders and others in contributing to an individual s professional profile in relation to promotion, research assessment and research funding decisions. Such formal recognition should be accompanied by the development and use of metrics that allow the collection and tracking of data use and impact. In general, data citations should be accorded the same importance in the scholarly record as citations of other research objects, such as publications. Principle #7 Use of others data should always conform to legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks including appropriate acknowledgement. When users gain access to and use open research data - as indeed any data generated by others - it is vital that they do so in a manner that respects the contexts and norms under which it was created. It is thus essential that those who subsequently use the data respect and adhere to the same frameworks and observe any restrictions that may have been imposed during data collection. This is widely recognised already in fields of research that rely on data of a highly personal nature from research participants (for example, patient medical data); but it can apply equally in many other research fields (e.g. environmental data or any data that may identify or create the possibility of identifying individuals). All users of research data must formally cite the data they use. This is important both in those cases where the data has been generated as an inherent part of research, and where the primary aim of the research has been to create datasets that can be used by others. The obligation to recognise through citation and acknowledgement the original creators of the data must be respected in both cases. Research organisations bear the primary responsibility for enforcing ethical guidelines and it is therefore vital that such guidelines are amended as necessary to make clear the obligations that are inherent in the use of data gathered by other workers. Learned societies should also play a strong role in establishing relevant ethical guidelines and promoting best practice across the disciplines that they nurture.
9 Principle #8 Data supporting publications should be accessible by the publication date and should be in a citeable form. One of the most important principles of research is that all published results should be assessable by others. Such assessments - which may be undertaken by reviewers and editors before publication, and by others post-publication constitute a fundamental underpinning of the advancement of knowledge, as well as helping to guard against fraud. It has therefore for long been the expectation that publications should include all the necessary details for research to be tested and validated wherever possible. Ensuring that the findings reported in publications can be replicated and/or reproduced is often difficult to achieve in practice. But the aim of replicability is critically important since it facilitates the process whereby each researcher builds on the achievements of prior work and thus advances the whole research field. In this spirit, it is vital that the data supporting and underlying published research findings should be made open by the time the findings are published and that it is preserved for future generations. This could be achieved by depositing and providing access to relevant data and associated software (where possible) via a repository owned or operated by a discipline-specific research community and its funding bodies, a publisher, a research institution, a subject association, a learned society, national deposit libraries or a commercial organisation; or via other mechanisms that provide appropriate and sustainable services. It is neither practical nor cost-effective to make all data open for an unlimited amount of time. Nevertheless, data underlying publications should be retained for 10 years from collection, creation or generation of the research results (whichever is the later) unless specified otherwise by the funder of the research. It is important that the data is, in general, freely available (without for example payment or subscription requirements) and that the dataset is citable in itself (for example through the use of persistent identifiers, such as Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)) to ensure clarity of which exact dataset is under discussion or examination. It is recognised that in rare circumstances involving unusually high costs of data transfer (for example perhaps exceptionally large data sets) reasonable costs of data transfer may be passed onto those requesting access. Principle #9 Support for the development of appropriate data skills is recognised as a responsibility for all stakeholders. The development of open research data depends on the ability of all involved to understand their responsibilities and to optimise their own opportunities. It is clearly of little use making research data open if researchers in general lack appropriate data skills to make use of the opportunity. Underpinning this is recognition that curating, archiving, manipulating and analysing data requires a set of skills distinct from those utilised to collect, generate, or measure the data in the first place. In
10 some cases, an individual researcher may well be capable of acquiring the necessary skills through self-directed learning, but for most, specialist tuition will be essential. All stakeholders therefore have responsibilities to facilitate the development of appropriate data skills amongst the wider research community. For research institutions this should include the provision of specialised researcher training opportunities provided in an organised and professional manner. It is imperative also that funding organisations, alongside research institutions, support the provision of such training through appropriate funding routes. Individual researchers must also ensure that their own data skills are at a level sufficient to meet their own obligations whilst understanding the benefits to themselves of a higher level of understanding. The specialised skills of data scientists are crucial in supporting the data management needs of researchers and institutions. Research institutions and funders should work together to help build capacity and capability in this area, and to attract and retain such specialists by developing welldesigned and sustainable career paths for them. Principle #10 Regular reviews of progress towards open access to research data should be undertaken. The journey towards open research data will require considerable efforts over the medium term. The importance of open research data is widely accepted but implementation is not straightforward. Progress will require the coordinated efforts by a number of actors and across a number of areas. The difficulties involved should not be underestimated and new issues will emerge as progress is made. There will also be developments internationally which will have an impact on UK policy and practice. It is vital therefore that researchers, research organisations and funders remain committed to the development of open research data. This should be manifested in, as a minimum, the undertaking of regular reviews that monitor progress and register issues to be addressed. This would be best achieved through engagement with community activities, such as the UK Open Data Forum, that bring together the full range of stakeholders. Long-term commitment from all stakeholders will ensure that the benefits of open research data are realized in practice and will help to secure the UK s position as an international research leader. This will be to the mutual advantage of all involved; providing a strong incentive to support open research data.
11 Annex 1: The Concordat Working Group Rick Rylance AHRC and RCUK Nick Wright Newcastle University Rachel Bruce JISC William Hammonds Universities UK Ben Johnson HEFCE Mark Thorley NERC Tim Jones Warwick University Michael Jubb Research Information Network Iain Hrynaszkiewicz Nature Publishing Group Maja Maricevic British Library David Carr Welcome Trust Mathew Wollard Essex University Tim Bradshaw Russell Group Annex 2: Useful references to follow
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