This guide is intended as a general introduction to research data management. If you have any questions or require any additional support, please contact the Research Support Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on Research Data Management can be found on our Research Data webpages. This guide should be read in conjunction with the guide to Open Access at Middlesex University.
Research data are any supporting materials that underpin, frame or respond to your research question. The UKRI Concordat on Open Research Data defines research data as "the evidence that underpins the answer to the research question, and can be used to validate findings regardless of its form (e.g. print, digital, or physical)." Research data can vary across and between disciplines. While the language of research data and research data management are taken from the STEM subjects, research data occur in the art and humanities and practice-based research as well.
Research data can include, but is not limited to, numerical data, statistics and spreadsheets, software or code, experimental results, simulations, geographical information, interviews, survey or questionnaire results, images, audio files, video or film, visual artworks, physical specimens or samples, diaries, journals or process documentation, performance videos or film, choreographic notes, designs or sketches.
Research data closely follow the lifecycle of a research project, from the initial planning stages, or finding data to re-use, through to the end of a project when data are archived, shared (if this is permitted) and linked to outputs and publications that it underpins.
Why manage research data? The Benefits of Research Data Management for Researchers
Research data management ensures that your data are organised, reducing error and mitigating against data loss or corruption. It is part of 'best practice' for research. Understanding whether and how your data can be shared can help you to build impact and broaden the reach of your research. Effective data management can benefit you as a researcher through increased credibility (your findings can be validated), increased citations (research data can be cited as an output) and increased possibility for collaboration, building your research reputation.
Research data management has wider benefits too. Effectively managed research data can increase the reputation of your research institution. Research data management is part of Open Research, Research data that is shared can increase diversity and equality in research, and facilitate a more collaborative research culture.
At the beginning of your research project, you should draft a Data Management Plan. Many funders now mandate a data management plan as part of an application for funding. The data management plan provides an outline of what types and volumes of data you plan to collect or generate during your research, how you plan to store and publish any data, whether there are any requirements from funders or partners related to your data, and whether there are any legal, ethical or commercial constraints to data sharing and security. Ideally, your data management plan should be kept as a 'living document' and updated as your research develops.
A data management plan typically provides a response to the following questions:
Many funders have specific formats and requirements for a data management plan. Some links to funder guidance on data management plans, data sharing and data management policies can be found below:
UKRI Constituent Research Councils:
Support for Data Management Plans
If you need assistance drafting a data management plan, or reviewing it prior to submission, you can contact the Research Support Team at email@example.com. You can also contact the Research and Knowledge Transfer office for further guidance.
The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) has a tool, DMPOnline, which provides templates for data management plans. Note that Middlesex University no longer subscribes to this service, so Middlesex-specific guidance may no longer be current. The DCC also maintains a page with some example data management plans.
Video Source: Moore Library, Cambridge University: https://youtu.be/qeDjix_Vs00
While sharing research data is part of best practice for open research, and many funders mandate open data sharing, not all data can be made openly available, or should be. Data may contain sensitive or restricted information and have legal, ethical or commercial constraints to data sharing which must be complied with.
Many funders recognise the balance that must be struck between data sharing and data protection. In most cases, metadata (data about the data) can be shared as part of a data access statement, and the statement should indicate that data are restricted and cannot be shared openly. Please see the 'Data Sharing' box in this guide for further information.
Conditions for data sharing and openness should be outlined in your data management plan, including how you will ensure that any sensitive data are protected (storage and long-term archiving once your research project has ended).
If you are working with sensitive data, or data that may require safeguarding, please contact your departmental or University Research Ethics Committee in the first instance. They will be able to advise on storing your data securely at Middlesex University.
Please note that the Middlesex University Research Data Repository (figshare) must not be used for sensitive or restricted data.
Finding and Re-using Data
Research data can often be re-used for further research, but re-use will depend on the access and re-use conditions applied by the original authors. In addition, research data should ideally be annotated or include rich metadata so that the provenance or source of the data is clear (e.g. how the data has been produced or collected and the publications or other outputs that it underpins). Research data for re-use can often be found in discipline-specific or institutional repositories. A directory of registered research data repositories, including information on licenses and access terms can be found through the Registry of Research Data Repositories (Re3Data). The registry is searchable by discipline and subject keyword, making it a useful starting point to find research data.
Some datasets may have a specific and legally-binding data sharing agreement which ensures that data are accessed, used, distributed and cited in a specific way.
Data access or data availability statements in publications will also provide an indication of where the data can be found, and whether it can be accessed and used in further research.
Licenses for Research Data
Research data should have a license applied and clearly stated as part of the Data Access Statement. Applying a license to your work ensures that you will receive credit for your work, such as through a citation. It will also enable others to understand how to access and use your research data, including understanding possible restrictions to data sharing. Most data repositories will be able to provide guidance on selecting a license for your research data.
While full guidance is not possible in this guide, information on the most frequently applied licenses can be found below:
Please see the separate research data licenses box for further information.
Copyright and Intellectual Property
Your research data may have constraints to data sharing and other requirements such as those imposed by a research or commercial partner. The Research and Knowledge Transfer Office (RKTO) may be able to provide further guidance. Additional Middlesex-specific guidance is available here: https://unihub.mdx.ac.uk/study/copyright/research
Citing Research Data
Research data should ideally have a digital object identifier which can be used to cite a dataset or digital object. The following guide prepared by the Digital Curation Centre provides useful guidelines for data citation.
Organising, Storing and Protecting your Research Data
Research data that is 'in use' during a research project should be carefully stored to ensure that it is protected against the risk of data loss, corruption and/or unauthorised access.
Middlesex University has a research data repository on figshare (https://mdx.figshare.com/).
The Middlesex University Research Data Repository provides wide access to any openly-available digital content online, however, to deposit data in the data repository, you will first need to log-in with your Single Sign-On (SSO). Once you have logged in successfully, you can upload the files that you wish to deposit. Complete the fields as required and submit your data for review. The Research Support Team will review your submission and may contact you to request further information to ensure that the information that you have provided is complete and detailed enough to enable your dataset to be discovered. Once your deposit has been approved by the Research Support Team, you will have a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) which can be used to cite your data and also to link your data with any related research outputs such as publications. For example, DOIs can be used to link a dataset in the Research Data Repository with a journal article in the Middlesex University Research Repository. You can use the DOI for your deposited dataset to cite your work, and to be included in a data access statement included in publications arising from your research data.
Please note that the Middlesex University Research Data Repository is not suitable for sensitive or restricted data. If you are working with sensitive or restricted data, please contact your departmental Research Ethics Committee or the University Research Ethics Committee in the first instance for further guidance.
Guidelines for Data Deposition in the Middlesex University Research Data Repository
The Middlesex University Research Data Repository is suitable for most digital data types such as images, media such as video and audio files, numerical datasets and digital objects. The Middlesex Research Data Repository can also accept student work such as datasets or practice-based research outputs such as artworks or film that underpins a thesis.
Please note that textual outputs such as journal articles, books or book chapters, conference proceedings, theses and grey literature such as reports should be deposited into the Middlesex University Research Repository. Further guidance can be found on the Open Access guide.
At the end of your research project, you may be expected to share your research data. Sharing your data is part of best practice for open research, and can benefit you through the provision of additional citations, as your data can be cited as an output, increasing the impact and reach of your research. Sharing your data also ensures wider benefits to the research community such as research transparency and validation of research.
Many funders such as the UKRI mandate that data must be made openly available after a specific time. This time frame can vary between funders, so be certain to check the conditions of your funding agreement to ensure that you comply. Failure to comply may compromise your research funding. Funders will often factor in a time frame that will enable you to exploit your data for further publications before it is shared openly.
You may also need to comply with the data sharing requirements of commercial or academic partners, so ensure that these are agreed upon and clearly stated at the start of your project as part of your data management plan.
While most research data can be shared, not all research data should be shared. Data may have legal, ethical or commercial constraints and must not be shared. Many funders recognise this, and it may be possible to share metadata about your data instead, with some exceptions such as classified or commercial patents, where not even metadata can be shared openly.
Research data should ideally be shared through a research data repository such as the Middlesex University Research Data Repository. Some funders may require deposition in a specific research data repository, such as ESRC, which requires that all research data be deposited in the UK Data Service. This and other funder requirements for data sharing will be outlined in your funding contract.
When you share your data ensure that it is covered by a licence (see below for further information). Applying a licence such as Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 ensures that your dataset will be accessed, used and cited appropriately.
You should also ensure that your dataset has a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) applied. The DOI will ensure that your data can be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-Usable in accordance with FAIR data, and that it can be cited appropriately to ensure that you are credited as the creator of the data.
Finally, ensure that any publications arising from your data include a Data Access Statement. The data access statement (also called the data availability statement) should include the location of the dataset (ideally as a DOI or repository URI) and the access and re-use conditions of the data, such as a license. Note that data access statements are now mandatory for UKRI-funded publications from April 1, 2022. For more information on the UKRI Open Access policy, and Open Access at Middlesex University, please refer to the related Middlesex University Open Access Libguide.
As research becomes increasingly digital, it is important to link your research data to your publications to ensure that they can be discovered online and cited in further research. A data access statement, including a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) can provide a persistent link between your dataset and its associated outputs, and should be included as part of a data access statement. It is part of best practice to include a data access statement (also called a 'data availability statement') in publications and other outputs arising from your research data. In UKRI-funded publications, a data access statement is mandatory from April 1, 2022.
The data access statement is a short, two-sentence statement that provides the following information:
e.g.: "The data underpinning this study are available at [DOI], and are made available for re-use with citation under a CC-BY 4.0 license" or
"The data underpinning this study are restricted due to legal and ethical constraints to data sharing. Data are deposited in the UK Data Service at [DOI].The data are only available for use upon application to the UK Data Service."
Even if your data are restricted or no data are available, this should be reflected in your data access statement.
e.g.: "There are no available data associated with this study" or "Data for this study have been destroyed in compliance with General Data Protection legislation and are not available for re-use".
While a full outline of all possible data licenses is not possible here, the most frequently used licenses for research data are the Creative Commons licenses, the Open Data licences, and (for software/code) the Open Source licenses. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that enables legal sharing and use of creativity and knowledge by providing a simple, standardised way of granting copyright permissions/licences to a piece of work.
Check whether your funder and/or publisher specify a licence you need to use.
Some frequently-used Creative Commons licenses and a brief description of their terms and conditions can be found below:
Some additional resources and guides for data licensing can be found below:
If you require any assistance in determining the best licence for your data, please contact the Research Support Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.