Data Management and You – A broader look at research data requirements

This is Part 2 of a discussion series on data management requirements for government funded research.

As discussed in the previous installment of this series, data management has become an integral requirement of government funded research projects. Not only are there considerations related to the fact that the research was supported using taxpayer funding, and hence the data should be made available to the public, but data sharing also helps expand the impact and influence of your own research.

Part 1 of this series focused on the data management requirements of the National Science Foundation (NSF). In Part 2 below we look at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Australian Research Council (ARC), and the Research Councils United Kingdom (RCUK).

NASAAs with the NSF proposal process, NASA requires a data-sharing plan to be incorporated as part of any proposal response. Specifically, as described in the NASA Guidebook for Proposers, the “Proposer shall provide a data-sharing plan and shall provide evidence (if any) of any past data-sharing practices.” Unlike NSF, which requires a separate two-page plan, the NASA data-sharing plan must be incorporated within the main body of the proposal as part of the Scientific-Technical-Management section. Additionally, as something important to keep in mind, NASA also specifies that “all data taken through research programs sponsored by NASA are considered public”, “NASA no longer recognizes a ‘proprietary’ period for exclusive use of any new scientific data”, and that “all data collected through any of its funded programs are to be placed in the public domain at the earliest possible time following their validation and calibration.” This means no more holding data in reserve until such time as a researcher has completed their work and published their results. Instead, NASA is taking a strong stand on making its data publically available as soon as possible.

RCUKLooking now to the United Kingdom, the RCUK explicitly defines data sharing as a core aspect of its overall mission and responsibility as a government organization. As part of its Common Principles on Data Policy, RCUK states that “publically funded research data are a public good, produced in the public interest, which should be made openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner.” To achieve this objective, the individual Research Councils that comprise the RCUK each incorporate their own specific research requirements that conform to this policy. For example, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) specifies in its Grants and Fellowships Handbook that each proposal must include a one-page Outline Data Management Plan. If funded, researchers will then work with the NERC Environmental Data Centres to devise a final Data Management Plan. And at the conclusion of the project, researchers will coordinate with the Data Centres to transfer their data and make it available for others to use.

ARCThe Australian Research Council also encourages data sharing as an important component to funded research projects. While the ARC does not specify the need for data management plans in its proposals, the policies listed in the ARC Funding Rules explicitly encourage “depositing data and any publications arising from a research project in an appropriate subject and/or institutional repository.” Additionally, as part of the final reporting requirements for most ARC awards, the researcher must specify “how data arising from the project have been made publically accessible where appropriate.” It is also common amongst the various funding opportunities to include a discussion in the required Project Description on strategies to communicate research outcomes. While not explicitly stated, data sharing can certainly play an important role in meeting such needs to disseminate and promote research achievements.

Government agencies clearly recognize the importance of data, and are making it a priority in their research and proposal requirements. So don’t forget to include data management as part of your next proposal planning process.

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