The European Commission (EC) held a public consultation on open research data. For that purpose the Commission invited stakeholders from various branches and researchers, the industry, funders, libraries, publishers, infrastructure developers and other stakeholders joined the meeting on 2 July in Brussels.
The commission posed five questions to structure the debate. These questions included basic questions like “how research data can be defined?”. But a lion’s share of the questions dealt with the “openness” of data: What types of data should be openly available? When and how does openness need to be limited?
In addition other important questions from the perspective of infrastructure service providers were mentioned. How should research data be stored and made accessible? How should the issue of data re-use be addressed? And finally a question I personally characterize as a very important topic: How can we enhance data awareness and a culture of data sharing?
In a report, the Commission summarized some of the consultation’s main findings:
1) Definitions of research data and the question of openness
It is not very surprising that the commission found out that definitions of research data vary considerably among stakeholders.
2) When and how does openness need to be limited?
Some of the participants also mentioned limitations of the openness of research data. Especially the industry would like that the availability is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Other limitations are related to privacy issues (for instance genome sequences but also privacy protection in general), public security and IPCs.
3) How should the issue of data re-use be addressed?
In response to this question the stakeholders mentioned concerns about licensing and recognition for researchers that are working up data for re-use. Many technical aspects were also mentioned – especially the question whether the current e-infrastructure is sufficient for data re-use.
4) Where should research data be stored and made available?
The issue of data management plans and data accessibility was one of the most discussed topics – and therefore also the sustainability of data repositories and data preservation. Also the question was raised if professionals are ready to meet the challenges of preserving and curating research data. In general there was a great acceptance from all stakeholders that data management plans are crucial for any policy on open research data.
5) How can we enhance data awareness and a culture of sharing?
It was nice to read that stakeholders also consider data awareness and a culture of sharing to be the most important question to consider in formulating any policy on open access to research data. Let’s cast our eyes over the stakeholders’ positions:
Considerations by researchers involved specific budgets to assist people in data sharing, building a social system for data sharing, enforcing data management and data sharing plans (for instance in project applications), assessing data just like journal articles.
The industry in contrast stated that it is just as important to promote a culture of protecting ideas – what apparently means: the industry is not so much interested in an emerging culture of data sharing – at least not in their own sector. On the other hand the industry is broadly interested in data sharing of publicly funded research. In the industry’s opinion the publicly founded researchers should share the data so that private companies might use these data for non-public developments and profits. But if it’s up to the industry to share data (e.g. in projects that are partially funded by companies) everything should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Some funders mentioned that research data from public funding is a public good; therefore should it be discoverable. Others acknowledged that funders have to play an important part in implementing policies and guiding a suitable culture of data sharing. Also developing appropriate training and support services is a task some funders regard as import.
Among the stakeholders involved in the consultation were – among others- LIBER, DANS, RCUK, DFG, OKFN, IZA, OpenAire, APA, JISC, Wiley, Elsevier, Philips, Federation of German Security and Defence Industries, Swedisch Research Council, NOW,…
Photo: “Brukselka” by barbiez on flickr.com. License: CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0