Make your data count

RECODE Recommendations Workshop

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the final workshop of the RECODE project in sunny Athens. The RECODE Project (Policy RECommendations for Open Access to Research Data in Europe) is an EU-funded project that has been working towards a number of policy recommendations for various parties with a role in enabling the re-use of research data. Although their detailed report is unlikely to be published until February 2015, they have published a summary booklet which succinctly covers the main recommendations. The recommendations are high-level and largely uncontroversial, although not necessarily straightforward to implement – most will occupy the sector for years to come and involve elements of culture change. Whilst hardly a revelation, the need to provide incentives for researchers to share their data openly was referred to frequently during the workshop.

I had been invited to the workshop to describe the work going on at Oxford as an example of good practice at the institutional level, although anyone following my presentation would quickly have realized that much of our ‘good practice’ remains at the theoretical rather than the practical level, despite recent progress. I was struck by how many of the invited speakers were from the UK, which perhaps emphasizes the advances the UK HE sector has made over the last five years or so – particularly in response to the demands of the research funders and facilitated by the Digital Curation Centre and JISC MRD Programme.

Of the six recommendations for research institutions, Oxford is in the process of implementing four. We already have a policy, although it does not specifically refer to ‘Open Access’ to data – our researchers are still adapting to Open Access to publications and could do without the further confusion at this point in time. Nor are we (yet) attempting to ‘include open access to high quality research data as a formal criterion for career progression’. This is clearly a potentially fraught area, and it would seem sensible to get helpful data-sharing infrastructure in place first that researchers wish to use willingly, before considering any far-reaching changes to academic career structures.

The presentations from the workshop should be available shortly from