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Research Data Policy leads the way to open and responsible data management

The role of open research data has increased significantly over the past years and continues to do so both nationally as well as at the global level. However, responsible opening of data brings many requirements with it.

Published : 16.11.2022

Data gathered in different research projects is used not only by the project group itself, but all the more often it is opened to be utilized in other research projects as well. This is critical as the wider use of data opens up new research opportunities, that benefit the society and advance science more broadly. Opening research data means that scarce resources can be used more effectively and efficiently as the data is utilized from many perspectives and for various research purposes.

It is vital that organizations and individual researchers who open data follow both laws and regulations regarding the data, as well as ethical research principles and good scientific practice.

In order to open the data, organizations need to have agreed ways of managing data, including data collection, presentation, and storage. The quality of data needs to be evaluated, and importantly, data needs to be anonymized so that it does not include any personal identifiers. All of these actions require clear policies and procedures for different organizational actors.

Research Data Policy at Haaga-Helia

Haaga-Helia has committed to the Finnish declaration of open and responsible research 2020-2025, part of which specifically addresses management of research data. In June 2022, Haaga-Helia published its research data policy to support all research, development and innovation activities and to set the ground for responsible management of data.

Haaga-Helia’s research data policy reflects our values, including accountability, transparency and collaboration. It highlights Haaga-Helia’s role and strategy to do research, development and innovation with high societal and research impact. To do so, the policy defines – in line with FAIR principles – that the data and output of research, development and innovation activities should be as open as possible and as closed as necessary.

Haaga-Helia’s research data policy addresses the basic principles, guidelines as well as roles and responsibilities of managing data gathered in research, development and innovation activities throughout a research projects’ lifecycle. Data policy addresses both data gathered in research projects as well as metadata describing the context, data, and data points.

The importance of research data policy

An articulated research data policy is a foundation for open and responsible research data management and subsequently also for increased research impact. A research data policy helps all organizational members work in line with laws, regulations, and organizational expectations.

A research data policy facilitates good scientific practice, ethical research principles, legislation, and agreements in all of the organization’s research projects. It ensures that everybody knows their responsibilities regarding data. In addition, it increases predictability and helps different organizational actors to coordinate their processes and actions.

Opening data requires planning and resources. Requirements, time and costs of opening data must be considered when planning a project​. It is also crucial that already in the planning phase and before the actual collection of empiric data begins, the different research ethics and data protection elements that affect the possibility of opening data are taken into consideration.

For example, in qualitative research on human subjects, informing and receiving consent from the subject to participate in the study and later potentially opening the anonymized data need to be confirmed and agreed on. In addition, data protection and potential IPR agreements need to be taken care of and agreed upon. It is important that the organization’s guidelines, research policies and direct support guide in such matters.

Openness also needs to be supported by the infrastructure, including tools and services supporting the storage, use, availability, and distribution of the data​. There needs to be secure places to store the data throughout its lifecycle.

Importantly, research data policy supports everyone involved in research, development and innovation activities in their career. The role of open data or metadata is increasing in gaining visibility and merit. Responsible evaluation of research and researchers includes also opening of data, among evaluation of more traditional research outputs.

Furthermore, research funders are emphasizing responsible opening of research data in increasing number in their project funding decisions and guidelines, to ensure that publicly funded projects are as open as possible as closed as necessary. Therefore, it is also important from the perspective of receiving research grants that responsible research data policy is implemented.

Further reading

Horizon 2020 Online Manual. Open access data management.