Policies for open research

18 April, 2012

I was tweeted some great questions about RDM and open access policies today and thought they warranted more than a 140 character response.

Here are the questions from DataPool at the University of Southampton:

Reading excellent overview and analysis of Developments in Research Funder Data Policy by @sjDCC (IJDC) bit.ly/IlfuFb #ukdcc

Q1 for @sjDCC on data policy paper: what was impact of e-science programme on research data policy development in early 200x? #ukdcc

Q2 for @sjDCC on data policy paper: how do research data policy and #openaccess policy, eg RCUK, intersect and impact? #ukdcc

And here's my reply:

Great questions - thanks @jiscdatapool.

I'd not really considered the influence of the eScience programme on RDM policy development before, but I'd link it to the overarching drivers.  All of the work done to provide an infrastructure that can handle large volumes of data and enable collaboration and sharing underpins the political push for greater openness of research.  The outputs of the eScience programme demonstrate the possibilities, so most likely spurred on the various declarations and RDM policies that emerged throught the period.

Considering research data management and open access (publication) policies, I think there's a lot of intersection.  I'd see them as two branches of one underlying principle, namely that publicly-funded research is 'a public good' and all of its outputs should be as openly and widely available as possible.

The difference between them - and real challenge! - comes in implementation.  While there is undoubtedly a lot of confusion and barriers to uptake across the piste, I'd argue that the hurdles are much lower for open access to publications than for open data.  The complexities of managing research data in all its various forms and making the case for data sharing given the personal investment, the time needed to prepare data and the lack of reward, makes it so much harder.

Nonetheless, I think there are parallels and lessons to be learned from earlier repository and open access work as we tackle RDM policies - not least considering things from a researcher's perspective.  Bill Hubbard illustrated this beautifully in a talk he gave for us in February.  See slides 5-21 in his ADMIRe presentation.

Focusing on simplicity, usability and drawing connections to link up publications and data will be key.

So that's my tuppence worth - what do you think?