MRC policy on research data-sharing
Our policy on data-sharing builds on the principles developed of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report “Promoting Access to Public Research Data for Scientific, Economic and Social Development” identified that publicly-funded research data are a public good, produced in the public interest and that they should be openly available to the maximum extent possible.
The OECD Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding (2007) promotes a culture of openness and sharing to increase “the return on public investments in scientific research,” exchange of good practice, awareness of the costs, benefits and restrictions on sharing.
The MRC policy is also consistent with the Research Councils’ Common Principles on Data Policy which in turn reflect the OECD principles.
Our data-sharing policy applies to all MRC-funded research. It does not prescribe when or how researchers should preserve and share data but requires them to make clear provision for doing so when planning and executing research. The policy was approved by the Council in 2005. This September 2011 version includes some minor changes that do not alter the intent of the policy.
The MRC expects valuable data arising from MRC-funded research to be made available to the scientific community with as few restrictions as possible so as to maximize the value of the data for research and for eventual patient and public benefit. Such data must be shared in a timely and responsible manner.
The MRC believes that data sharers should receive full and appropriate recognition by funders, their academic institutions and new users for promoting secondary research.
New studies that result from this data-sharing should meet the high standards of all MRC research regarding scientific quality, ethical requirements and value for money. It should also add recognisable value to the original dataset.
Such research is often most fruitful when it is a collaboration between the new user and the original data creators or curators, with the responsibilities and rights of all parties agreed at the outset.
Data arising from MRC-funded research must be properly curated throughout its life-cycle and released with the appropriate high-quality metadata. This is the responsibility of the data custodians, who are often those individuals or organisations that received MRC funding to create or collect the data.
A limited, defined period of exclusive use of data for primary research is reasonable according to the nature and value of the data and how they are generated and used. Ongoing research contributing to the completion of datasets must not be compromised by premature or opportunistic sharing and analysis. Sharing should always take account of enhancing the long-term value of the data.
MRC policy is not intended to discourage filing of patent applications in advance of publication and recognises that it may be necessary on occasion to delay publication for a short period to allow time for applications to be drafted.
For medical research involving personal data, the appropriate regulatory permissions – ethical, legal and institutional – must be in place before the data can be shared.
Researchers, research participants and research regulators must ensure that within the regulatory requirements of the law, opportunities for new uses are maximised. Potential research benefits to patients and the public should outweigh identified risks. Risks such as inappropriate disclosure of personal information must be managed in a proportionate yet robust manner – see the MRC guidelines Personal Information in Medical Research.
Access policies and practices for new and existing MRC funded data collections must be transparent, equitable, practicable and provide clear decisions consistent with MRC data sharing policy. Studies can consult the MRC policy guidance on sharing of research data from population and patient studies for support on how to meet the MRC data-sharing principles.
New guidance will be published (December 2011) on the summary Data Management Plan, which should be submitted with any funding application to the MRC.
Public health research data
MRC is a co-signatory of the Sharing research data to improve public health: joint statement of purpose, which states that much data collection that can improve public health research is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, making research datasets available to investigators beyond the original research team in a timely and responsible manner, subject to appropriate safeguards, will generate key benefits:
- Faster progress in improving health
- Better value for money
- Higher quality science
The statement’s principles are that research funders agree to promote greater access to and use of data in ways that are equitable, ethical and efficient.