Research data must be shared

The Research Council of Norway has adopted its first policy on open access to research data from publicly funded projects. The guidelines apply to all data generated by projects funded by the Research Council – with a few exceptions.

The main principle in the Research Council’s new policy is that research data in general must be accessible to relevant users, on equal terms, and at the lowest possible cost.

“This is an important step towards achieving a research system that makes the most effective use of the large amounts of data collected as part of research projects,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council.

The Research Council’s policy corresponds to policies implemented by the EU and other countries.

Recommendations, not requirements

The guidelines in the policy describe how the data should be stored, made accessible to others, and shared. Key concepts in this context are embargo periods, provision of licenses for use of research data, and the need for a long-term plan for data management.

The policy is formulated as a set of recommendations – not requirements. The Research Council’s various funding instruments will be adapted to accommodate the principles in the policy. One possible measure is to introduce a requirement that research projects incorporate data management plans. The Research Council would use these plans as a basis for accepting data accessing costs as part of the operational expenses of funded projects. In addition, the Research Council will focus on encouraging the establishment of well-designed infrastructure for data storage and data management, in part through the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure.

The guidelines in the policy are intended to assist researchers when planning their research projects.

Key principle

Better access to research data will enhance the quality of research in that results can be validated and verified in a more effective manner and datasets can be used in new ways and in combination with other datasets. Open access to research data will also help to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and pave the way for more interdisciplinary research.

“The results of publicly funded research comprise a public good that is valuable to the research community as well as to society at large. This is set out as a key principle in the new policy. The policy also describes how the Research Council will use its instruments to promote more open access to research data,” says Mr Hallén.

Exceptions: protection of personal privacy, commercial factors and security concerns

Some datasets may not be made openly accessible as a matter of course. The Research Council’s policy therefore establishes clear exceptions. Datasets must be not made openly accessible if doing so could pose a threat to personal or national security or conflict with the applicable statutory framework regarding the protection of personal privacy or other legal provisions.  

Data that have commercial value and are generated in projects in which a company is the contractual partner with the Research Council may be exempted from the general principle of open access. In these cases, it is recommended that the data are made available after a certain period of time, preferably after three or five years. Data that are highly impractical or costly to make accessible may also be exempted from the general principle of open access. 

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