It is useful to see the direction of research data management in Australia in an international context. We can see that research funders in other countries are pushing harder and demanding more of researchers than is required in Australia, and we anticipate that Australia will follow that lead. This page reviews some significant examples from overseas.
The OECD Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding (2007) set out some guidelines around the management of research data and primary materials.
The OECD Principles and Guidelines makes recommendations at the policy level, and have the ultimate goal “to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the global science system.” The Guidelines are made on the following principles:
- Legal conformity
- Protection of intellectual property
- Formal responsibility
The benefits are explained at the societal level and across science and research as a whole. First, “Its use will undoubtedly facilitate the scientific endeavour and therefore contribute to the betterment of society.” Regarding science and research, the benefits of access to and sharing of data are that it:
- reinforces open scientific inquiry;
- encourages diversity of analysis and opinion;
- promotes new research;
- makes possible the testing of new or alternative hypotheses and methods of analysis;
- supports studies on data collection methods and measurement;
- facilitates the education of new researchers;
- enables the exploration of topics not envisioned by the initial investigators; and
- permits the creation of new data sets when data from multiple sources are combined.
Australia, as an OECD member, is expected but not legally bound to implement the OECD principles and guidelines.
In the UK, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) set some fairly demanding guidelines in its Research Data Management Policy (2015).
Somewhat similarly to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, the ESRC policy sets out the responsibilities of grant applicants, grant holders, grant holders’ institutions, the ESRC itself, and ESRC data service providers. The responsibilities are aligned to a number of principles and supported by notes on implementation.
There are some noteworthy elements of the ESRC policy, including the following:
- Data sharing
- It is assumed that data will be shared
- A strong case must be mounted for not sharing data
- Sanctions may be applied if data is not deposited in a timely manner.
- Sensitive data
- It is even assumed that sensitive data will be shared.
- For data obtained from human participants, grant holders must seek to secure consent for data sharing or alternatively appropriately anonymise the data or discuss secure access mechanisms to make sharing possible.
- Data deposit
- All data created or repurposed during the lifetime of the grant with a responsible data repository will be deposited within three months of the end of the grant.
In the US, the NIH has had a position on data sharing since 2003, stating that “[d]ata sharing is essential for expedited translation of research results into knowledge, products and procedures to improve human health.”
The NIH has several requirements for researchers:
- The NIH expects and supports the timely release and sharing of final research data from NIH-supported studies for use by other researchers.
- “... investigators submitting an NIH application seeking $500,000 or more in direct costs in any single year are expected to include a plan for data sharing or state why data sharing is not possible.”