Research Data Management Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 This policy lays out the responsibilities of the University and researchers for the management and potential sharing of research data. It will be reviewed every three years or when significant changes are required, whichever is sooner. Amendments will be approved by the University’s Research Committee.

1.2 This policy is informed by the Concordat on Open Research Data [PDF - 178kb] (2016), as produced by HEFCE, JISC, RCUK, UUK and Welcome, which sets a framework for best practice within UK HEIs with respect to the management of all research data. Since the Concordat’s publication, best practice for optimising the reuse of research data has coalesced around the FAIR principles and been increasingly informed by the reproducibility movement. This policy incorporates guidance and requirements designed to align practice at University of Birmingham with both sets of principles.

1.3 As per the University’s Code of Practice for Research, research data generated by staff in the course of their research at the University is the property of the University of Birmingham unless a prior contractual arrangement assigns IP to a sponsor, funder, or collaborating institution.


2. Definitions

2.1 In the Policy the terms have the following meanings:

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

“Researcher”: means all Staff (including Emeritus Professors, Honorary Staff and Visiting Staff), Registered students, staff supporting research activity (including technicians and research software engineers) 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."

“Research Data Management” (RDM) is a set of activities undertaken over the course of the research lifecycle which address the collection, organisation, storage, documentation, preservation and sharing of research data. RDM should be considered at the beginning of a project by creating a Research Data management plan (DMP), which should be consulted and updated throughout the project lifecycle. Good research data management will help ensure that data is kept safe and secure, that it is handled in accordance with legislative and funder requirements; and that where feasible it can be shared and reused according to the FAIR Data principles.

“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, on what Research Data may be made open, and where restrictions on access might apply.

“FAIR Data” – refers to a set of principles which maximise the discovery and reusability of data, irrespective of whether that data is openly available or restricted and whether it is being interrogated by a human being or machine. It refers to Research Data being Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. Further information about the FAIR principles is available on the Library Services web pages.

“Data Access Statement” – sometimes referred to as a ‘data availability statement’, this is a short statement included with publications to describe where associated data is held, and under what conditions it can be accessed. Where data is not openly shared, it should include contact details which allow data access requests to be considered independently of the paper’s authors. Data access statements are mandated by several funders (including UKRI) and is increasingly a requirement for publishing in some journals.


3. Expectations on researchers

3.1 Research Data should be managed to the highest agreed standards, in accordance with funder requirements, current legislation (including the information Data Protection Act 2018) and University policy (including Information Security and Management, Data Protection, Code of Practice for Research and this policy) throughout the Research Data lifecycle, as part of the University’s commitment to research excellence and integrity. 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 research that collects, generates or uses research data must be supported by a DMP that explicitly addresses data capture, types and volume, storage, integrity, confidentiality, retention, ownership, sharing and deposit. This may be either a DMP submitted to the research funder as part of a research application, a document developed via the University’s DMPOnline system, or created via a discipline or departmental template. The DMP must specify where data will be stored after findings are published and how and when data will be made available for access and reuse. The DMP should be retained at the end of a project and updated to confirm where research data has been shared and/or archived, along with any restrictions on reuse.

3.5 Generally, associated research data should be made openly available as soon as findings are published, via a trusted repository or publication. However, in alignment with FAIR principles, the University acknowledges that there may be legitimate reasons for restricting access to data (e.g., confidential / sensitive data which cannot be suitably anonymised, or data subject to commercial contract). Such restricted data should still be securely deposited in a trusted location following publication of findings, with attention given to the FAIR reusability principles. Any decision to restrict access to a data set must be documented in the project’s DMP. A record of restricted data sets must still be created in Pure (paragraph 3.14); and clear instructions must be made available (for example via a data access statement and/or repository metadata) for requesting access to such data.

3.6 Data Management Plans must ensure that Research Data are available for access and reuse 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.

3.7 Where a research project involves human participants, due consideration should be given to the reuse of data as part of the participant consent process (UK Data Service provide advice). 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, including any agreement for reuse in future research. Processes to comply with this requirement should be documented in the relevant DMP.

3.8 Open research data should be discoverable and accessible in line with FAIR principles. This means data should be deposited in a trusted repository, with metadata which fully describes the data and links to any associated publications. It is strongly recommended that data sets are assigned a persistent identifier, such as a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). The use of ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), as well as the use of standard open licences for sharing research data is also recommended. Authors of restricted data sets should also consider their deposit in a trusted repository to aid discovery, meet funder requirements and ensure the data remains available to fulfil legitimate access requests.

3.9  Research projects should plan for their software management, as well as their data and consider whether it will be made openly available e.g. as open source software, and if so what licence is appropriate (see guidance here). Code that is developed as part of a research project and is essential to the analysis or creation of data should be shared with appropriate documentation around functionality to aid reproducibility and reuse of software and data. Sharing via software repositories such as GitLab or GitHub allows others to develop code into new directions whilst keeping track of versions. Major versions should be stored in repositories such as FigShare or Zenodo, which provide a DOI that can then be added to research publications.

3.10 Notwithstanding paragraph 3.5 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. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to deposit research data to a trusted repository under a temporary access embargo to maintain such rights while still fulfilling FAIR principles around discovery.

3.11 All users of pre-existing 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).

3.12 At the conclusion of a project, Researchers should assess what Research Data should be retained and for how long, taking into account guidance from their funder. For example, UKRI require retained data to be accessible for ten years, but for projects of clinical or major social, environmental or heritage importance for 20 years or longer.

3.13 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.

3.14  Any time data is either deposited in a repository for long term retention (closed or open deposit); and/or is referenced in a data access statement, a record of that data set must be registered with the University through the creation of a metadata in the University’s research information system (currently Pure). When data is deposited in eData, a Pure record will be created on behalf of the researcher.

3.15 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.

3.16 Commercial publishers should not be granted exclusive rights to publish Research Data. Authors must ensure the University retains copyright and that any publishing agreement does not prevent the University from sharing the data for reuse, including by open deposit in a repository. Rights to publish Research Data should not be handed over to commercial publishers without retaining the rights to make the data openly available for reuse.

3.17 Exclusive rights to reuse Research Data by a funder or research partner 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.

4.3 Where requests are received for access to restricted data sets, the University will convene a Data Access Panel to assess the request and make a decision on whether access is granted. The University will be responsible for the reuse agreement and for the secure delivery of data sets where access is agreed.

Approved January 2017, last updated February 2024


Professional Services