Research Data Management Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 The University has adopted the following policy on Research Data Management (RDM). The policy lays out requirements and responsibilities for the University and for researchers as currently understood. It will be updated annually as the external landscape develops and amendments will be approved by the University’s Research Committee.

1.2 The Concordat on Open Research Data [PDF - 178kb], as produced by HEFCE, JISC, RCUK, UUK and Wellcome, sets a framework for best practice within UK HEIs with respect to the management of all research data, and has guided the formulation of key aspects of this Policy.

2. Definitions

2.1 In the Policy the terms have the following meanings:

“Principal Investigator”: means the Principal Investigator or, where the project is collaborative and the formal principal investigator is located at another institution, the lead researcher at the University of Birmingham.

In cases of collaborative medical research funded by the NHS and some other funders, the lead investigator is referred to as the Chief Investigator (CI) while the Principal Investigator (PI) is the local site lead.

“Researcher”: means all Staff (including Emeritus Professors, Honorary Staff and Visiting Staff), Registered students and external research collaborators who are involved with research in connection with or as part of the University.

“Research Data”: the University has adopted the definition of Research Data from the Concordat on Open Research Data [PDF - 178kb]:

“Research data are the evidence that underpins the answer to the research question, and can be used to validate findings regardless of its form (e.g. print, digital, or physical). These might be quantitative information or qualitative statements collected by researchers in the course of their work by experimentation, observation, modelling, interview or other methods, or information derived from existing evidence. Data may be raw or primary (e.g. direct from measurement or collection) or derived from primary data for subsequent analysis or interpretation (e.g. cleaned up or as an extract from a larger data set), or derived from existing sources where the rights may be held by others. Data may be defined as ‘relational’ or ‘functional’ components of research, thus signalling that their identification and value lies in whether and how researchers use them as evidence for claims. They may include, for example, statistics, collections of digital images, sound recordings, transcripts of interviews, survey data and fieldwork observations with appropriate annotations, an interpretation, an artwork, archives, found objects, published texts or a manuscript.

“Open Data” – means Research Data that are retained at the conclusion of a project which are then available to be subject to further scrutiny openly and without restriction. This Policy provides further information on the retention of Research Data on completion of a research project, and what Research Data may be made open, and where restrictions on access might apply.

3. Expectations on researchers

3.1 Research Data should be managed to the highest agreed standards, in accordance with funder requirements, current legislation, including Data Protection legislation, University IT Security policies and standards (including the Data Protection policy and this Policy) throughout the Research Data lifecycle as part of the University’s commitment to research excellence. Heads of Principal Academic Units have responsibility to ensure that any procedures developed for complying with these requirements are made known to all Researchers.

3.2 Responsibility for Research Data management through a sound Research Data management plan (DMP) during any research project or programme lies primarily with Principal Investigators, although all staff and students undertaking research within the University have a responsibility to manage their research data effectively.

3.3 Researchers should seek, where possible, to cover the direct costs of Research Data management from the research funder.

3.4 All funded research must be supported by a DMP or protocol that explicitly addresses data capture, management, integrity, confidentiality, retention, ownership, sharing and publication. This may be either a DMP submitted to the research funder as part of a research application or a document developed via the University’s DMP system after the project receives funding . Unfunded research which is likely to generate Research Data should also be supported by a DMP. It is recognised that given the level of culture change this implies, there will be a period of time during which the institution will be working towards compliance with this requirement, when the primary focus will be on RCUK, EU and health-related research, especially where these funders stipulate the provision of a DMP. This policy will be revised annually to reflect progress with this requirement.

3.5 DMPs (see paragraph 3.4 above) must ensure that Research Data are available for access and re-use under appropriate safeguards. The legitimate interests of the subjects of Research Data must be protected. Personal and sensitive data should be processed and protected in line with current legislation and the University’s Code of Practice for Research.

3.6 Where appropriate, Research Data should be made open within a short period after the completion of the research, in line with disciplinary standards, and in the case of Research Data supporting publications, should be accessible by the publication date and should be in citeable form (see Principle 8 of the Concordat on Open Research Data for best practice guidance).

3.7 Notwithstanding paragraph 3.6 above, creators of Research Data have a right to reasonable exclusive first use, as recognised in the Concordat on Open Research Data, principle 4, to which Researchers should refer for guidance on best practice. All users of Research Data should formally cite the data they use, whether the data referred to was generated as an inherent part of research, or whether the primary aim of the research was to create research data sets for the use of others (see Principle 5 of the Open Data Concordat).

3.8 At the conclusion of a project, Researchers should assess what Research Data should be retained taking into account guidance from RCUK or its successor body on best practice in the management of research data. All retained Research Data should normally be preserved and accessible for ten years, but for projects of clinical or major social, environmental or heritage importance for 20 years or longer.

3.9 Any decision to dispose of Research Data is the responsibility of the researcher, consulting with their College Director of Research and appropriate Professional Services staff, where appropriate. If Research Data are to be disposed of, then the reasons for doing so should be properly documented and stored as part of an updated DMP for the project.

3.10 Research Data that are retained should then be subject to further scrutiny by the PI in consultation with appropriate Professional Services staff to identify whether or not they should be made openly available without restriction (open research data, often referred to as open data). It is recognised that legal, ethical and commercial considerations may prevent making certain datasets widely available, but these should nonetheless be retained where this is the outcome of the decision process referred to in paragraph 3.8 above. Researchers should give consideration to issues which may affect whether their data may be made open when drafting their Data Management Plan (see paragraph 3.4).

3.11 Unless there are ethically and legally justified reasons for doing otherwise, Researchers working with human subjects must ensure that they have an auditable record of each study participant’s explicit informed written consent to obtain, hold and use their personal data; processes to comply with this requirement should be mentioned in the relevant DMP.

3.12 Upon completion of a project, Researchers should deposit Research Data in a suitable repository.

3.13 Any Research Data which is retained in a service external to the University, for example in an international data service or domain repository, should be registered with the University through the creation of a metadata record in the University’s current research information system, (at the time of writing, Pure), including confidential Research Datasets.

3.14 Research data remains the property of the University when a researcher leaves. Where research data has been made open on conclusion of a project, the researcher in question may access it in the normal manner; if not, an access request will be required.

3.15 Rights to publish Research Data should not be handed over to commercial publishers without retaining the rights to make the data openly available for re-use. Exclusive rights to re-use Research Data should be agreed only for limited periods, and only via formal contracts or via commercialisation agreements brokered by University of Birmingham Enterprise.

4. Expectations on the institution

4.1 The University will provide training, support, advice and, where appropriate, guidelines and templates for Research Data management and DMPs.

4.2 The University will make available, at a cost if appropriate, mechanisms and services for funder-compliant storage, backup, registration, deposit and retention of Research Data assets in support of current and future access, during and after completion of research projects. These services may be University, collaborative, national or international data services or domain repositories.


Approved January 2017, last updated January 2018