Managing and sharing data

The UK Data Archive (UKDA) has published the third edition of its guide Managing and sharing data. The 36-page guide is available as a free pdf download, or you can request the UKDA to send a print copy. Although written and published by the UKDA – an archive for social sciences – it is mostly generic and has been endorsed by BBSRC, NERC, JISC, the British Library and the Research Information Network. Strangely neither the MRC or Wellcome are on the list of endorsers.

The guide starts by looking at the need for data sharing, driven by research funders policies (here MRC and Wellcome get a mention), journal publishers’ requirements and a belief that it is good for science. It then talks about data management plans, a way for researchers to assess what they can do to share their research data and what the barriers to sharing might be. The guide cautions:

A data management plan should not be thought of as a simple administrative task for which standardised text can be pasted in from model templates, with little intention to implement the planned data management measures early on, or without considering what is really needed to enable data sharing.

It goes on to stress the importance of documenting the data, that is creating metadata to provide “sufficient contextual information is required to make sense of the data”. The guide examines the pros and cons of various data formats and the need for format conversions, and has good advice on data storage, security and disposal. A section on ethics and consent and one on copyright round off the general advice. Finally it has some advice for data centres.

The guide includes case studies throughout, to make the issues discussed feel more real, and also gives references to further reading. It also has a useful data management checklist – a series of questions that researchers should ask themselves about their data handling procedures and approaches.

Late addition
Just spotted on Twitter: RCUK have published their Common Principles on Data Policy.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we slip from print through to electronic information resources.
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One Response to Managing and sharing data

  1. Frank says:

    Follow-up. A short discussion on the Open Knowledge Foundation email discussion list, Open Science, bemoaned the fact that this guide did not mention the concept of “open data”.

    The discussion developed with John Wilbanks and Rufus Pollock agreeing that “Openness is *not* an end in itself, it’s a means to an end”, and that open data advocates must alwazs emphasise the benefits to science that will flow from more open data.

    There was also a recent BMJ editorial Making raw data more widely available by Andrew Vickers, welcoming the leadership of the Wellcome Trust in developing principles for data sharing.