Overview of funders' data policies

The coverage of funders' publication and data policies and the support they provide is summarised in the table below and the clarifications that follow.

Further details are available on the individual funders' policy pages and from each funders website.

Download the Cross Council Policy Overview handout which includes the table below.

The policy webpages were created in light of our 2009 Curation Policies Report. Although the report has not been updated, the webpages are regulary reviewed to reflect changes in funder policy.

Further studies have been released and will be reviewed to integrate into the guidance here:

n.b. the research funder links in the table take you to further details of each funder's policy

  • Full Coverage
  • Partial Coverage
  • No Coverage
  Policy Coverage Policy Stipulations Support Provided
Research Funders  Published outputs   Data   Time limits   Data plan   Access/
sharing 
 Long-term curation   Monitoring   Guidance   Repository  Data centre Costs
AHRC full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage no coverage full coverage no coverage partial coverage partial coverage

BBSRC

full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage full coverage

CRUK

full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage full coverage no coverage no coverage
EPSRC full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage no coverage no coverage full coverage
ESRC full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage
MRC full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage no coverage partial coverage full coverage no coverage partial coverage
NERC full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage
STFC full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage full coverage partial coverage partial coverage
Wellcome Trust full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage full coverage partial coverage full coverage

 

Terminology Clarifications

  • Published outputs: a policy on published outputs e.g. journal articles and conference papers
  • Data: a datasets policy or statement on access to and maintenance of electronic resources
  • Time limits: set timeframes for making content accessible or preserving research outputs
  • Data plan: requirement to consider data creation, management or sharing in the grant application
  • Access/sharing: promotion of OA journals, deposit in repositories, data sharing or reuse
  • Long-term curation: stipulations on long-term maintenance and preservation of research outputs
  • Monitoring: whether compliance is monitored or action taken such as withholding funds
  • Guidance: provision of FAQs, best practice guides, toolkits, and support staff
  • Repository: provision of a repository to make published research outputs accessible
  • Data centre: provision of a data centre to curate unpublished electronic resources or data
  • Costs: a willingness to meet publication fees and data management / sharing costs

Published Outputs

Funders' expectations on access to published outputs are summarised in the joint RCUK position statement which was first issued in June 2005. All advocate open access to outputs from their funded research programmes and many provide a repository service in support of this requirement.

Data

In 2011, RCUK issued a set of Common Principles on Research Data Policy. These push for data to be made openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner. Most research funders have issued data policies, however the extent and coverage of these varies greatly. In some cases researchers are also directed to good practice guides, which provide recommendations on documenting and maintaining research.

Time Limits

Most funders expect research papers to be deposited in an accessible repository within 6 months of publication. Data are to be made openly available as soon as possible, typically on publication of results. Embargo periods are permitted as appropriate to the field.

The ESRC and AHRC (only in the case of archaeology) expect an offer of data to their data centres within three months of the end of the award. NERC expects data to be deposited as soon after the end of data collection as is possible, which may be well before the end of the award.  

Expected periods for preservation vary. The AHRC expects access to be maintained for 3 years while Cancer Research UK notes a minimum period of 5 years. The BBSRC, MRC and Wellcome Trust meanwhile state a period of 10 years after the completion of a research project.

The EPSRC expects data to be securely preserved for a minimum of 10 years from the date that any privileged access period expires or from the last date on which access to the data was requested by a third party. STFC also notes 10 years as a reasonable minimum but states that efforts should be made to retain data which by their nature can not be re-measured 'in perpetuity'.

Data Plan

Most research funders require applicants to submit a statement on data management and sharing at the grant proposal stage. The expected coverage of this statement varies by funder - a summary of funders' DMP requirements is available. The biomedical funders (BBSRC, Cancer Research UK, MRC and Wellcome Trust) focus heavily on data sharing. The STFC expects data management plans for all data within the scope of its policy, both at the grant application stage and within STFC operated facilities.

The EPSRC acknowledges the value of policies and planning and expects data management plans to be in place. However, it does not require researchers to submit DMPs at the grant application stage. Institutions are expected to develop a data policy and roadmap for compliance with EPSRC expectations.

Access / Data Sharing

The Research Councils have signed a statement on open access to research outputs, which advocates making publications widely accessible, as soon as possible.

Steps are also being made to link publications with underlying data. The EPSRC and NERC require that all research publications include a statement on how the supporting data can be accessed, and the RCUK Common Principles reiterate this. Repositories such as UK PubMed Central and DRYAD are accepting data related to publications. 

There is a general expectation that data will be made available with as few restrictions as possible. The ESRC and NERC facilitate data sharing through their funded data centres. Since 2011, environmental data held by NERC data centres is freely available without any restrictions on use. The AHRC provides access to archaeology data through the Archaeology Data Service and requires other award holders keep data accessible for a minimum of three years. Other funders such as the BBSRC, CRUK, EPSRC, MRC, STFC and Wellcome expect data sharing but do not mandate places of deposit.

Long-term Curation

Most of the data policies cover long-term curation. Many funders emphasise the need to create resources according to appropriate standards to enable reuse and preservation.

Expected periods for preservation range from 3 years to 10+ years. The EPSRC expects the period of preservation to extend based on third party access requests and the STFC expects efforts to be made to retain some data 'in perpetuity'.

Monitoring

The majority of funders note that they will monitor compliance with their policies, typically via the final report process.The EPSRC notes that it will monitor progress and compliance on a case by case basis. Both the ESRC and the NERC could withhold the final grant payment if data are not properly managed and offered for deposit. The extent to which such penalties are applied is unclear.

Guidance

The extent to which guidance and support services are provided varies significantly. The best served researchers are those funded by the ESRC and NERC, which provide extensive curation guidance and support through their designated data centres. The AHRC runs a similar service for archaeology researchers and has legacy guides online for researchers in other fields.

The MRC and STFC provide some best practice guides and toolkits. The BBSRC and Wellcome Trust provide extensive guidance to accompany their data policies and assist researchers with data management and sharing plan requirements, while the EPSRC directs researchers to the JISC, DCC and ICO for support.

Repository

Most research funders provide a publications repository for their funded researchers. ESRC, NERC and STFC all run their own services while BBSRC, Cancer Research UK, the MRC and Wellcome Trust are partners in UK PubMed Central. The only funders that do not provide a repository for published outputs are the AHRC and EPSRC. Researchers funded by these Councils are expected to use any institutional or subject based repositories.

Data Centre

Provision of data centres is patchy - very few funding bodies have a full service in place to support their researchers. The exceptions are the ESRC and NERC, which both provide comprehensive preservation and support services through the ESDS and NERC data centres.

The AHRC provides a data service for researchers in the area of archaeology through ADS and there are several services supported by STFC, such as the UK Solar System Data Centre and Atlas data store. Science and medical funders often contribute to joint initiatives, for example at the European Bioinformatics Institute.

For research that falls outside subject data centre remits, the institutions in which funded researchers are based are expected to maintain outputs in the long-term.

Costs

Over half of the funders agree to meet publication fees. The MRC and Wellcome Trust also encourage, or in cases where they have paid publication fees require, licences that allow articles to be freely copied and reused for purposes such as text and data mining.

The BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, NERC and the Wellcome Trust also state that costs associated with data management and sharing can be included in grant proposals. Although the AHRC, MRC & STFC don't make a clear statement on whether these costs will be met, they have all signed up to the RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy which clarify that it is appropriate to use public funds for this. Only Cancer Research UK makes an explicit statement that will not provide additional funds for these activities as it considers timely and appropriate data management and sharing an integral component of the research process.