Where is your data? How would you feel if somebody contacted you and asked to see it? Public access to research data is an initiative being driven forward by big research funders, influential societies and government. In essence the aim is to ensure transparency and reflect the right to access information through the Freedom of Information Act.
Data Management Plans are now a common part of the application process for research funding and the EPSRC helped roll the ball by mandating that research organisations comply with EPSRC expectations. These include making metadata (the data about data) available online in a way that is visible, searchable and accessible and that accurately represents the underlying research data, in most cases, 12 months after its generation. If access to the underlying data is restricted then the metadata must include the reasons for restriction and conditions of access. Research data must be available for a minimum of 10 years. All publications resulting from RCUK funding require a statement detailing how underlying data can be accessed.
Don’t panic! These policies are different to unfettered ‘Open Data’ – direct and unrestricted access to raw data. That said Open data practices have already yielded real world benefits. Think Human Genome Project or the MET Office/Land Registry open data license.
The culture of research is under many pressures and like it or not is changing. The bottom line is that the amount of data created is growing exponentially and RDM policies aim to preserve the principle of openness and allow for exploitation of data in ways that were not before possible. The challenge is to make it as easy and useful as possible for researchers.
These are exciting times. Are you in?
Need more information? You need the TUoS RDM team webpages: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/rdm/index