Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

National Academies: data and method should be public

Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age, National Academies Press, November 2009. A report of the National Academies' Committee on Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a Digital Age, published in book form last week. From the summary:

... Advances in knowledge depend on the open flow of information. Only if data and research results are shared can other researchers check the accuracy of the data, verify analyses and conclusions, and build on previous work. Furthermore, openness enables the results of research to be incorporated into socially beneficial goods and services and into public policies, improving the quality of life and the welfare of society.

Despite the many benefits arising from the open availability of research data and results, many data are not publicly accessible, or their release is delayed, for a variety of reasons. ...

Legitimate reasons may exist for keeping some data private or delaying their release, but the default assumption should be that research data, methods (including the techniques, procedures, and tools that have been used to collect, generate, or analyze data, such as models, computer code, and input data), and other information integral to a publicly reported result will be publicly accessible when results are reported, at no more than the cost of fulfilling a user request. This assumption underlies the following principle of accessibility:

Data Access and Sharing Principle: Research data, methods, and other information integral to publicly reported results should be publicly accessible.

Although this principle applies throughout research, in some cases the open dissemination of research data may not be possible or advisable. ... Nevertheless, the main objective of the research enterprise must be to implement policies and promote practices that allow this principle to be realized as fully as possible.

This principle has important implications for researchers.

Recommendation 5: All researchers should make research data, methods, and other information integral to their publicly reported results publicly accessible in a timely manner to allow verification of published findings and to enable other researchers to build on published results, except in unusual cases in which there are compelling reasons for not releasing data. In these cases, researchers should explain in a publicly accessible manner why the data are being withheld from release. ...

Recommendation 6: In research fields that currently lack standards for sharing research data, such standards should be developed through a process that involves researchers, research institutions, research sponsors, professional societies, journals, representatives of other research fields, and representatives of public interest organizations, as appropriate for each particular field. ...

Recommendation 7: Research institutions, research sponsors, professional societies, and journals should promote the sharing of research data through such means as publication policies, public recognition of outstanding data-sharing efforts, and funding.

Recommendation 8: Research institutions should establish clear policies regarding the management of and access to research data and ensure that these policies are communicated to researchers. Institutional policies should cover the mutual responsibilities of researchers and the institution in cases in which access to data is requested or demanded by outside organizations or individuals. ...