Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age

access-to-research-dataI just finished reading the Executive Summary of a report out by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a Digital Age. The report is entitled, “Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age“. The full report is available online for purchase in both .pdf or a paper version. You may also obtain a copy via your library’s InterLibrary Loan program, if you’d prefer not to pay for a copy.

So…what does this report discuss? In a nutshell, the authors state that openness and transparency (e.g., “access to”) research data is integral to the integrity of the scientific process. Research must be repeatable, which means the data used for said research must be made public also, not just the results of the study. Data management and stewardship must be built into a project from the beginning, and researchers should work with people whose expertise is in the management and curation of data. The latter should be provided with funding, and that funding should be included in the project’s costs.

Different domains have different cultures that either promote or discourage sharing, but once a project is complete and the results reported/published, the data should be made publicly accessible. This is particularly important with regards to issues that are part of public (re: democratic) discussion and policy creation. The authors cited the recent controversy over climate change data.

Who should fund the long-term stewardship of research data is still to be determined, but researchers should work with an institution or organization to ensure the curation of the data; individual researchers are not responsible for the long term preservation of their data, but they are responsible for working with those who can maintain it over the long term. The authors emphasized the need for each research domain to establish standard practices and policies for data management, if researchers in these fields have not already done so. They also described the need for researchers themselves to receive some training on data management. The committee ended with an entirely new set of questions to investigate, which I will not list here.

I am glad to see the National Academy of Sciences encouraging data use/re-use, public accessibility to most taxpayer-funded data, data stewardship, the importance of data integrity to the scientific process, and the emphasis on working with data management professionals, as well as the need for researchers to develop domain specific policies, standards, and training on data stewardship.

What are your thoughts on this report?

Please let me know what you think....