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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris29 January 2020

The Sorbonne Declaration on Data Rights

27 January 2020 saw a number of global university networks assemble in Paris under the chairmanship of LERU (League of European Research Universities). The international Research Data Rights Summit was dedicated to a discussion of Open Data and national/regional legislative frameworks to support research data management, research data being the building blocks on which publications (such as journal articles) can be based. The meeting was called under the aegis of the Sorbonne University, the University of Amsterdam and UCL (University College London).

The Sorbonne Declaration is signed

Following intensive discussion, 8 global university networks signed the Sorbonne Declaration on research data management and research data rights. These networks are: the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Coordination of French Research-Intensive Universities (CURIF), the German U15, the Group of Eight (Go8) Australia, the League of European Research Universities (LERU), RU11 Japan, the Russell Group (UK), and the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. This Data Summit was unprecedented in its scale, with networks representing more than 160 of the main research-intensive universities in the world actively involved.

Research data is the new currency in the age of Open Science/Scholarship. This is an essential issue for the quality and transparency of research. It is also a crucial economic issue: funded largely by public money, research data represents tens of billions of euros worldwide. The objective is therefore to make these data accessible in order to accelerate scientific discoveries and economic development. For example, in Europe, according to a recent report produced by the European Commission, sharing and better managing research data would save 10.2 billion euros per year in Europe, with an additional potential of 16 billion euros of added value by the innovation generated. With the current global concern over the coronavirus, the sharing of research data can only help lead us faster to finding effective treatments. The Sorbonne Declaration is therefore set against the background of the growing importance of research data as a key scholarly output which can benefit society and address the global challenges which face humankind.

Zamansky Tower, Sorbonne University

The Sorbonne Declaration acknowledges a number of principles which underpin research activity in the age of Open Science/Scholarship, such as: research data should be openly shared and re-used as much as possible and it is the academic community which can identify the complex conditions for such re-use.

The university networks commit to a number of actions, such as: research data should be FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable); and changing reward schema to acknowledge FAIRness and Openness.

The Declaration calls on the global research community to build the necessary environment to encourage data sharing and makes a number of requests of funding agencies, such as to consider the full costs of research data management as eligible costs for funding; and of national jurisdictions, to ensure proper legislative frameworks to support openness and sharing, avoiding ‘lock in’ to commercial services.

Open Science/Scholarship is a force for good in the world, leading to better research methodologies and the global sharing of research publications. With the possibility to share research data, Open Science/Scholarship offers the potential to provide new routes for discovery and the creation of knowledge and understanding. This is what the Sorbonne Declaration aims to do – to create a scholarly landscape from which the whole of society can benefit.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)