The following guiding principles, which are aligned with the agreed RCUK principles on sharing of research data, should inform all decisions relating to the management of all research data that has arisen as a result of Public funding:
- Research data is a public good produced in the public interest and should be made freely and openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner.
- It is recognised that there are legal, ethical and commercial constraints on release of research data. To ensure that the research process (including the collaborative research process) is not damaged by inappropriate release of data, research organisation policies and practices should ensure that these constraints are considered at all stages in the research process
- Sharing research data is an important contributor to the impact of publicly funded research. To recognise the intellectual contributions of researchers who generate, preserve and share key research datasets, all users of research data should acknowledge the sources of their data and abide by the terms and conditions under which they are accessed.
- Researchers should be entitled to a limited period of privileged access to the data they collect to allow them to work on and publish their results. The length of this period will depend on the scientific discipline and the nature of the research.
- Institutional and project specific data management policies and plans should be in accordance with relevant standards and community best practice and should exist for all data. Data with acknowledged long term value should be preserved and remain accessible and usable for future research.
- Sufficient metadata should be recorded and made openly available to enable other researchers to understand the potential for further research and re-use of the data. Published results should always include information on how to access the supporting data.
- It is appropriate to use public funds to support the preservation and management of publicly-funded research data. To maximise the scientific benefit which can be gained from limited budgets, the mechanisms for managing and providing access to research data should be both efficient and cost-effective in the use of such funds.
Retention of accurately recorded and retrievable results is essential for research.
- Primary research data (and where possible/relevant specimens, samples, questionnaires, audiotapes, etc) must be retained in their original form within the research establishment that generated them for a minimum of ten (10) years from completion of the project.
- Work that informs national policy making should be archived permanently.
- Researchers should keep clear and accurate records of the procedures followed and the approvals granted during the research process, including records of the interim results obtained as well as of the final research outcomes. This is necessary not only as a means of demonstrating proper research practice, but also in case questions are subsequently asked about either the conduct of the research or the results obtained.
- Researchers who are leaving the establishment that generated the data and who wish to retain data/copies of data for personal use must get permission from their team leader or head of department to do so. Where personal data are involved, the request should be refused unless it is clear that future use will be consistent with the terms of the consent.
- Back-up records should always be kept for data stored on a computer.
- Where electronic record are retained the programme or software used to save the electronic data, together with any updates should also be retained so as to facilitate access when required.
- Research records relating to clinical or public health studies should be retained for twenty (20) years to provide scope for longer follow-up if necessary; for detailed guidance see MRC guidelines on Personal Information in Medical Research.
Institutions should have guidelines setting out responsibilities and procedures for the storage and disposal of data and samples (including compliance with the requirements of any ethics committee).