We all know that research at Oxford generates publications, but increasingly the underlying data is becoming a crucial research output as well. Keeping and sharing research data helps demonstrate reproducibility, it enables data science and it enhances our academic profile via the rising importance of data journals. Oxford has been at the forefront of thinking in this area for many years and adopted one of the UK’s first institutional research data management policies (Policy on the Management of Research Data and Records) back in 2012.
IT Services and the Libraries worked closely with Research Services to help them draft that first policy, and again over 2017-18 we have worked with our colleagues around the University to update the policy and fit it to the rapidly changing world of research data management and sharing. Staff from our Research Support Service – aided by our fantastic intern Marcella Meehan – reviewed the policy alongside policies published by other universities and research organisations since 2012. We also interviewed twenty Oxford researchers and administrators to see how our policy could be clearer and easier to use. As in 2012, we worked with the Libraries and Research Services to draft the new policy and navigate it through a series of University committees. Finally, in early December 2018, just in time for Christmas, Research and Innovation Committee approved the new Policy on the Management of Data Supporting Research Outputs (note the new title).
So what has changed?
- Principal Investigators are now given an explicit role in ensuring that researchers whom they manage comply with the policy;
- The definition of data covered by the policy has been expanded to include data necessary for legal/regulatory compliance;
- The role of researchers in helping ensure good IP management and personal data management has been emphasised;
- ORA-Data is now specifically mentioned as a suitable repository for Oxford data and metadata;
- The name of the policy has been changed to clarify that researchers’ responsibilities relate primarily to research data used to support publications and other public outputs
- The University has accepted an additional ‘catch-all’ responsibility to help researchers with policy compliance where its standard training, support and infrastructure do not answer a researcher’s specific data management needs;
- General redrafting to improve clarity by, for example, incorporating footnotes into the main text and making nested responsibilities into separate points;
In general the revision has been aimed at making what was previously implicit explicit. For example the 2012 policy asked researchers to be responsible for data being “kept in a manner that is compliant with legal obligations…” In the revised policy, there is greater detail on what these legal obligations might actually be, including GDPR-related personal data compliance, abiding by the terms of legal contracts and funding agreements, and keeping track of intellectual property generated by research.
The Research Data Oxford team, comprising staff from the Libraries, Research Services and IT Services, are committed to supporting Oxford researchers with policy compliance, and helping them achieve the maximum impact with the data that their research generates. The University’s commitment to this support is also now explicitly referenced in the revised policy, making clear that good management of research data is best achieved when we all work together. If you have any questions about the revised policy, or need help with your own research data, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.