Because good research needs good data

National development in Sweden for Data Management Plan

Sabina Anderberg (Business Developer) from Stockholm University explains national development in Sweden for Data Management Plans. "As from 2019, all who are awarded a grant from the Swedish Research Council must have a data management plan (DMP) if the research generates research data. The...

Magdalena Drafiova | 21 May 2019

Knowledge exchange

National development in Sweden for Data Management Plan

by Sabina Anderberg, 21st May 2019 

National coordinating body in Open Access to publications and research data

With effect from 2017, the National Library of Sweden (NLS) has a government assignment to coordinate efforts to bring about open access to 
research publications. Parallel to this, The Swedish Research Council has a corresponding assignment for open access to research data. The two agencies have also been commissioned to develop assessment criteria to evaluate how effectively scholarly publications and research data that have been fully or partly obtained from public funding, comply with the principles outlined in the FAIR initiative.

New demands from the Swedish Research Council

As from 2019, all who are awarded a grant from the Swedish Research Council must have a data management plan (DMP) if the research generates research data. The plan shall describe how collected and/or created data will be managed during the course of the research, plus how they will be dealt with afterward.

The Swedish Research Council has collaborated with the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, SUHF, to produce a partially reworked version of Science Europe’s “Core Requirements for Data Management Plans”. It consists of six central parts that a data management plan should include, with associated questions. The six central parts and associated questions can provide support to produce a data management plan. According to the general grant terms and conditions, the administrating organisation must confirm that a data management plan will be in place when the researcher starts the project, and also that the plan will be maintained. In addition to the central documentation, a data management plan should also include basic administrative information, such as project title, project leader, registration number or corresponding, date and version of the data management plan. This means that Swedish universities are now obliged to provide the researchers with suitable support services for this.

The national working group for DMP

A working group for a national DMP template and a digital tool has been put together in 2019 by the Swedish Research Council. The aim is to coordinate all national work regarding data management plans as part of supporting open access to research data. The working group consists of representatives from some of the HEIs, researcher representatives and representatives of research financiers, the Swedish National Archives and a selection of national research infrastructures, among others. The aim is to coordinate the national work on data management plans, and support increased open access to research data. The working group will by the end of 2019, create a template for data management plans, and basic requirements for what functionality a common digital tool that supports open access to data in accordance with the FAIR principles should have. The working group will be looking in to aspects like specific demands from different stakeholders in a template, user aspects, definition of terms and content etc. Work on developing support services for research data management must take place in close cooperation and dialogue among the HEIs, the Swedish public research funders, research infrastructure providers and other relevant stakeholders – most importantly including the researchers themselves.

Stockholm University Research Data Policy and Rules for Data Management

Stockholm University was, in 2018, the first University in Sweden with a formal Research Data Policy and Rules for Research Data Management. One of the leading statements indicates that a data management plan should be documented in accordance with recommendations as laid out by the university or the requirements of specific research funding bodies. A data management plan should contain a description of the collection method, management, storage plan, data description, publication of material/data, what resources and systems are required, as well as any legal or ethical restrictions on publishing and using the material.

Since 2016, Stockholm University has been intensely promoting the need for a national enterprise, in accordance with international development, for a general interdisciplinary template and a common digital tool for DMPs. The national work in Sweden has been slow, taking a long time to coordinate the work with many different stakeholders, holding slightly different interests in, and knowledge of, what a DMP is and can be used for.

The University decided to sign up for a license to DMP Online in May 2019, just as free institutional access to the DMP Online tool ended. We consider this service to be helpful for researchers, as a trustworthy and straightforward tool for writing a DMP, while waiting for the results of the national efforts for a national tool. Our ambition and hopes for Sweden are to provide researchers with a general, nationwide, DMP template and a common digital tool that is available for all to use, regardless of which HEI the researcher belongs to. Considering the length of time it has taken to coordinate the relevant stakeholders in this, the slow work in progress for a national template and digital tool, we cannot wait for the final outcome of the working group´s suggestion, without offering our researchers a sustainable and adequate service. Fundamentally, while the national work is underway, we are obliged to provide our researchers with the requisite services and support for DMPs.

The paradigm shift to an Open Science system and the effects of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are imposing complex demands on HEIs; with their general responsibility for supporting researchers in their correct management of scholarly publications and research data. Throughout Europe, HEIs have been working for several years to develop policies and research support services as part of the Open Science framework with a specific need to manage research data – unfortunately, in Sweden, this development has taken much longer. It is important and necessary for Swedish HEIs to collaborate on the basis of joint, overarching frameworks in the areas where this is possible, so as to create resource-efficient and adequate research support services and research data policies that do not differ too much from one HEI to another. Researchers must be offered equivalent research support regardless of which HEI they belong to.

Research data are part of a much larger research process, and managing publications and data as separate processes entail a risk. At present, these areas are mainly separated in Sweden nationally but also locally at many HEIs because the publishing process and research data services are not as refined and well established as the process and support for publishing scholarly work. This separation should not persist in the long run: instead, these processes and the national and local structures to support them must work in unison based on active international global monitoring.

Sweden’s HEIs have considerable work ahead of them in developing university-wide research support services and infrastructure for managing, storing, accessing and preserving research data. One important task will be the development and implementation of a data management plan. It must be easy for the researchers to fill in the DMP, adjust it and archive it when the research project has ended.

Implementing the policy and practice of DMPs both in the management organisation and in dialogue with researchers and core operations calls for - coordination, cooperation, and new working methods, with task forces throughout HEI activities working together with external stakeholders like funders, etc. Inevitably, some of the most important parameters in the operational development of research support services for data management will be researcher participation, funding issues, resource allocation, skills development, and organisational structures, in addition to regulatory and legal aspects. Over the past two years, Open Science issues have been highlighted more clearly. Through the coordination assignments of the National Library of Sweden and the Swedish Research Council respectively, jointly with other relevant stakeholder work, more nationally coordinated efforts have now begun on a larger scale. Sweden has not yet progressed as far in this work with the HEIs as most other developed European countries. However, we are now well on track and it is gratifying to see that there is a new awareness of and expertise in these issues. Unlike Finland, for example, Sweden has a tradition of applying a decentralised approach. Work on resource-efficient infrastructure and research data management services need much more coordinated, communicated efforts on a shared national and international basis than before. The Swedish HEIs face new challenges. Building local research support infrastructure for managing research data to meet the newly imposed tighter requirements and recommendations is a pioneering activity. For the majority of questions, no perfect answers are available at present, and the activities need to be developed successively in step with good examples from other countries. There are several good examples to look at and be inspired by, around Europe and in our immediate vicinity, in the Nordic nations.

Stockholm University is now able to provide a digital tool for DMP and we are looking forward to being able to take part in the work of continuing to improve FAIR development of the tool and more machine-readable formats.

This autumn we will start an intense work providing the researchers with information about DMP in general and using the DMP Online tool. We will also look at the internal work process for creating a smooth workflow for handling DMPs back office, plus of course, take part in the work for a national template and digital DMP tool.

Read more about RDM at Stockholm University

We would like to say thank you to Sabina Anderberg for sharing this blog post with us. If you would like to get invovled in our knowledge exchange and share a story from your institution - please do get in touch with us