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Preserving and sharing data – University of Reading

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Preserving and sharing data

Data that support research findings should be preserved, and made accessible wherever possible, openly if no reason to restrict access exists, or on a restricted basis as necessary, by the time of publication of related research findings. Supporting datasets should be referenced from related publications.

Data should be as open as possible, as closed as necessary. While open data should be the presumed default in the absence of any reason to restrict access, there may be valid commercial, legal and ethical reasons why some data cannot be shared, or can only be shared on a limited basis. Where data cannot be shared or are subject to access restrictions, this should be clearly indicated in the published results.

The data you preserve and make accessible to others are part of the legacy of the research, and in many cases will be necessary to validate the findings you place on the public record. It is important, therefore, that the data are of good quality, preserved according to appropriate standards, and are made accessible and re-usable. 

The basis of effective open data sharing is described by the FAIR Data Principles, according to which Data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-usable. In most cases these principles can be complied with by archiving data in a data repository.

The data archiving process should begin towards the end of the project, as results are being finalised and publications prepared. This will involve selecting data (including software code where relevant) for long-term preservation and sharing, and preparing data for archiving.

An important part of preparing for data sharing is deciding how data will be licensed. Datasets should always be made available under licence, so that it is clear to anyone wishing to access and use them who owns the data, and on what terms they can be used. You should use the most open licence possible, which allows the widest possible scope for re-use and redistribution.

In most case the means of data preservation and sharing will be a data repository/data centre, but other archiving solutions may be appropriate for confidential data, large volumes of data, and non-digital data.

For the archiving of digital data, various data repository options may be available to you, including disciplinary data centres and data type-specific databases, institutional data repositories, such as the University's Research Data Archive, and general-purpose data sharing services.

It is important to reference and link to datasets from related publications, by means of what is called a data access statement or data availability statement. This is required by funders, and also now by many  publishers.

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