Because good research needs good data

Questions for funders

Questions in bold have a higher priority.

A. What RDM services and infrastructure are in scope?

  1. Is it appropriate for institutions to develop research data management services and e-infrastructure using research funding streams?

  2. Can research funding be used to develop and sustain long term institutional infrastructure or is it restricted to the support of individual funded projects?

  3. Can research grant monies be used to fund human infrastructure (i.e. institution support staff) or is it confined to expenditure on equipment and facilities?

  4. Large capital investments for infrastructure are welcomed and are critical for maintaining leading edge research, however such investments risk not being fully realised due to lack of clarity between permitted costs for tangible assets like hardware and intangible assets like professional services to commission and maintain the hardware to end-of-life decommissioning. Are there efforts across councils to make clear the distinction between permitted costs and non-permitted costs?

B. Open Access and data sharing

  1. RCUK’s recent guidance on open access indicates it has no plans to extend funding to cover Article Processing Costs for ‘additional types of research output’ such as data. Does RCUK or individual funders view favourably the inclusion in grant bids of any anticipated costs of depositing in non-institutional repositories such as Dryad?

  2. Given that traditional publication costs are considered valid costs for research whether direct, indirect, green or gold OA, what are Research Council intentions for supporting data archiving and preservation? Particularly regarding matched or other subsidy type funding between the Institute and the particular or RCUK Councils?

  3. If a project intends to use RDM infrastructure that is funded or owned by an industrial partner, will that exempt them from any policy provisions on sharing data stored in that infrastructure?

C. Specific and allowable RDM cost elements

  1. Which elements of research data management are allowable costs that may be included in grant proposals?

  2. Do any funders endorse specific categories of grant expenditure beyond the project period? For example data storage/curation for x years after the project, ongoing digital preservation after the project, the costs of data publication, etc.?

  3. Is there any proportion of funding awarded (e.g. 10% of a grant) that – as a rule of thumb – is acceptable to be spent to fund RDM services?

  4. If a business model to support research data management activities includes a one-off charge for deposit into an institutional data repository, will research councils accept these costs as a) incurred during a research project and b) additional to institutional provision?

  5. We will need to develop charging models to cover the cost of RDM throughout the lifecycle of the data. Which RDM-related activities (e.g. cost of storage and backup, hardware replacement, software replacement, maintenance, data ingest into a repository, staff time etc.) are eligible for inclusion in such a cost model?

D. Long term storage, preservation and archiving

  1. Do funders have any thoughts on how the costs of long term storage requirements should be met? Would they envisage funding these as part of the ongoing overhead for each HEI?

  2. Where needed, can the cost of long-term storage (25 years +) be retrieved from the research grant?

  3. Where institutions do not treat RDM as a Research Facility, are funders happy to pay for storage costs as Directly Incurred charges on a grant?
    i) where there are exceptional storage needs on a project
    ii) for general storage needs on a project

  4. What is the funder view on POSF (pay once, store forever) price models?

  5. Many funders (e.g. AHRC section 4 of the 2013 Research Funding Guide, section 2.b of the Technical Plan) recognise that they will cover costs for resources additional to the institutional provision. If a University currently provides a quota of research storage free to funded research projects, but finds this module to be unsustainable and therefore starts charging all researchers for data storage and archive, which funding councils will accept these costs as “additional to institutional provision”?

  6. Use of institutional storage provision using centrally managed backed up systems is more expensive than say, storage of data on external hard drives. How do research councils consider this fact in relation to the value for money argument that each application for funding needs to make?

  7. Several institutions are investigating data archive-as-a-service options for the long term storage of research data. Service offerings are available which provide near-line access to the data in JANET-connected data centres and insurance backed guarantees protecting against data loss, as well as ISO27001 data security certification. Do funding bodies view long term data archive as an allowable cost, on the basis that institutions fund the repository service, local disc storage and costs associated with data preservation and curation activities? (Indicative costs are £3.75 per Gb for 20 years storage).

E. What is the application process to recover RDM costs?

  1. If an institution provides research data management support that is tailored to the needs of an individual grant holder, can the actual FEC for providing it, be charged to a grant?

  2. How should allowable research data management service costs be included in grant proposals? Directly incurred? Indirects? Blanket % addition? Other?

  3. Institutions may consider a research data management service as a Small Research Facility and seek to charge use of the facility to a grant. Do funding bodies view this as an acceptable way for institutions to recover the capital costs of developing research data management services and thus avoid a proportionate increase in their indirect costs?

  4. How many/what percentage of ESRC grant application peer reviewers are ticking ‘Unable to assess’ when asked to review a data management plan? Have other funders got similar data?

F. Guidance and Support

  1. Are funders developing a collective vision for research data management, to help institutions develop consistent policies, procedures and benchmarks?

  2. Is a business model being developed to help us plan future data storage requirements, e.g. are there any plans to develop a subscription-based cloud storage service, or regional or discipline-specific data repositories?

  3. Are funders developing guidance on what proportion of research grant funding may be used to support institutional RDM infrastructure costs?

  4. Are there examples of grant submissions that have been rejected because of the inclusion of research data management costs?

  5. Can each funder provide examples to illustrate the successful inclusion of research data management costs in approved proposals?

  6. Many funding councils have recently updated their data policies. When this is done, please can funding councils archive all previous versions of their data policies on their websites, so that researchers whose projects started several years ago, can refer back to the policy that was in place when their funding was granted.

G. Compliance

  1. The EPSRC stated that they "may request evidence of activity to achieve compliance at any time" and if lacking, may "impose appropriate sanctions including, in an extreme case, the removal of eligibility for EPSRC funding". This has been used by many institutions to justify allocation of central resources to data management activities. How will the EPSRC demonstrate to the community that this strong motivator is real?