The 10 principles of open research data

With the publication of the Concordat on Open Research Data last week, the UK further cemented its leadership position in promoting access to tax payer-funded research data.

The Concordat sets out 10 principles that promote access to and reuse of research data as an enabler of high quality research, while recognising the costs that can be involved. Amongst other principles, the concordat promotes:

  • the availability of data supporting scholarly publications
  • the use of data repositories
  • the value of data curation to enable data access and reuse
  • support for developing researchers’ data skills
  • cultural norms of academia that ensure individuals can gain credit for data sharing

On behalf of Springer Nature, I was pleased to play a small part in developing the document; drafted by a collaborative, multi-stakeholder working group followed by extensive public consultation with the research community.

Although research organisations rather than Publishers are the target audience of the concordat, the principles have numerous implications for publishers if we genuinely wish to facilitate the communication of better research through wider access to data.

Data citation is a recurring theme in the concordat, as is a “right of first use” for data generators. Data must be made available in a citable form, ideally in repositories, and “[a]ll users of research data must formally cite the data they use”. Data citation is a persistent feature of the standardised research data policies we are aiming to implement across all Springer Nature publications. And Springer Nature last month (co-chaired by BioMed Central’s Amye Kenall) helped bring together publishers to share our experience and create a roadmap for implementing data citation across journals and books.

The importance of data curation – as a process and researcher skill – is underscored by the concordat, which also recognises the importance of disciplinary norms:

Data curation can be achieved in a number of ways, such as through peer review, adherence to community-specific data formats and standards, deposition in specific repositories and through appropriate descriptions, or dedicated data articles in journal publications.

Publishers must continue to innovate and experiment with how the data underlying publications can be made more findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). Practically this means facilitating access to data during peer review and promoting the use of – and partnering with – data repositories. It also means promoting discipline specific data standards and providing new publication formats and content features, such as data journals and articles. An example of this within Springer Nature’s Scientific Data team is a Data Curation Editor (Dr Varsha Khodiyar) who works with authors to help maximise the discoverability and reuse of open research data.

While the concordat is inherently UK-focused, the global nature of research and collaborations across geographic and disciplinary boundaries suggests the document may have wider implications. Major research organisations outside the UK, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are increasingly recognising the importance of data curation skills for researchers.

Significant moves were also made last month by the National Science Foundation, which begun providing dedicated funding for data depositing in the Dryad data repository, and the European Commission, which will fund open access to research data through its extended Horizon 2020 open data pilot.

Data sharing is often described as a journey and adoption of the 10 principles of the #researchconcordat by research organisations is, for many, an important first step.

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