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Research Data Management: Sharing Data

Why share your research data?

Sharing research data with the wider scientific community and the public is becoming accepted practice and is increasingly expected by funders and by publishers.   Some of the reasons are:

  • Research integrity - publishing your data and citing its location in published research papers can allow others to replicate, validate, or correct your results
  • Increased academic impact - research has shown that sharing data increases the citation rate for research papers
  • Increased social/economic/environmental impact – sharing data means it can be used in new and innovative ways, eg by businesses, community groups, other researchers, to affect change
  • For your own future use - preparing your data for sharing with others means you will be able to identify, retrieve, and understand the data yourself after you have lost familiarity with it, perhaps in several years' time
  • For teaching - your data may be ideal for students to learn how to collect and analyse similar types of data themselves
  • To enable collaboration and potential further research
  • To reduce duplication of effort
  • For funder and publisher mandates

Why not share your research data?

While it might seem ideal to make all data openly available to everyone without restriction, all funders and publishers recognise that there are good reasons for not making particular datasets ‘Open’.  The phrase ‘as open as possible; as closed as necessary’ is a good rule of thumb.  These are some of the reasons why you might not make data openly available, and what you could do.  Always check your funder's policy for what they expect.

Why not share your research data?
Reason Possible mitigation

Data protection – it would be impossible or disproportionate to anonymise the data sufficiently to avoid living persons being identifiable.

Identify the particular datasets that this applies to and explain it in your DMP.  It doesn't stop you making other datasets openly available. You can also provide metadata about the dataset, with information about whether/how access might be obtained and under what conditions.

Intellectual Property - releasing the data would compromise patent applications. Identify the particular datasets that this applies to.  Set a reasonable embargo on the data being released.  Explain this in your DMP.  Funders expect this kind of data to be made Open after a reasonable time period. 
Intellectual Property - a third party owns the IP and will not allow the data to be made 'Open' Identify the particular datasets that this applies to.  Explain this in your DMP.  If the data is available on another website (e.g. an image on a museum website), you could record the metadata about the dataset and provide a link to the third party website.
Confidentiality/Security - releasing the data would be a breach of confidentiality or security. Identify the particular datasets that this applies to.  Explain this in your DMP. You could record the metadata about the dataset (as long as this would not create a breach of confidentiality/security in itself), with information about whether/how access might be obtained and under what conditions.


Data access statements: linking your publication and data

Data access statements are used in publications to describe where data directly supporting the published paper can be found, and under what circumstances it can be accessed. Statements are required by many funders and publishers.

Some journals provide a section for a data access statement, however where this is not the case you should still include a statement in your manuscript.

A data access statement should include:

  • The name of the data repository where the data is held, and any persistent identifiers (e.g. a DOI) for the data set.
  • Any ethical or commercial reasons why the data is not openly available.
  • Instructions on how to request data that is not openly available.
  • Any specific terms of re-use.

It is not sufficient to suggest that interested parties contact the author for access to data.

Licensing your data

The most common way of giving permission for others to use your data is through a licence.

A licence in this context is a legal instrument for a rights holder to permit a second party to do things that would otherwise infringe on the rights held.

Only the rights holder (or someone with a right or licence to act on their behalf) can grant a licence; it is therefore imperative that the intellectual property rights (IPR) pertaining to the data are established before any licensing takes place.

It is the nature of a licence to expand rather than restrict what a licensee can do, some licences are presented within contracts, and contracts can place additional restrictions on the licensee and indeed the licensor.

For further information, including the different kinds of licence available, see the Digital Curation Centre's 'How to License Research Data'

DMU Policy

Policy on Managing Research Data at DMU

"DMPs should ensure that research data are available for access and re-use wherever appropriate and with appropriate safeguards ..."


DMU RDM Training


Click to go to the DMU Research Data Management Course