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Archive for the 'FAQs' Category

What is FOI and how does it apply to researchers?

By Ruth Wainman, on 7 September 2018

The Freedom of Information Act was created in 2000 to increase the transparency of the public sector and their activities. Under the Act, research data can be requested although copyright and IP rights to the data remain with the original researcher. When a request for information is made, there are normally 20 working days to respond. In the UK, most universities are defined as public authorities and are thus legally obliged to respond to FOI requests. There are, however, some key exemptions to the Act in the UK including:

  1. Personal data about living individuals cannot be requested, unless it is about you.
  2. Information that is accessible by other means.
  3. Information intended for future publication.
  4. Information that is subject to a confidentiality agreement.
  5. Information whose release would prejudice legitimate commercial interests.
  6. In Scotland, information that is part of a finite research programme for which there is a publication schedule and clear intent to publish.
  7. If the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest disclosing.

Source: Corti et al 2014

There have been a number of high profile cases in which FOI requests have been made against research data being collected by the universities. Data cannot be withheld indefinitely so you should always work under the presumption that if any information is not released the first time round, it can always be requested again. Researchers are therefore advised to detail the ways in which they plan to release their data in a data management plan in order to avoid any unanticipated FOI requests. It is therefore paramount that you plan for FOI and the implications of the Act when creating a data management plan. Writing a plan will also enable you to think more carefully through issues surrounding consent, sharing and ethics. Yet researchers should always remember that the FOI Act can often act as a useful means of data collection in its own right.

At UCL, further guidance on FOI can be found on the Research Integrity pages. If in doubt, researchers are also advised to get in contact with UCL’s specialist Legal Services team.

Further Information

What is a Format?

By Ruth Wainman, on 7 September 2018

A format is essentially the form your data will take once you collect and archive it. Researchers are strongly advised to think very carefully about the final format their data will take so that it can be preserved for future use.

There are two main two main categories of files – proprietary and non-proprietary formats. Proprietary formats are more limited as they only work with the software provided by the creator of that data. On the other hand, non-proprietary formats can be used by anyone, are usually free of charge and therefore have more utility for future researchers. Plus open formats provide instant and easy access to data. In most cases, you should aim for your data to take the following formats:

  1. Non-proprietary
  2. Unencrypted
  3. Uncompressed
  4. Open, documented standard
  5. Commonly used by your research community
  6. Use common character encodings – ASCII, Unicode, UTF-8

There will always be cases where you will inevitably need to change the format of your data during the course of your research. This is why it is important that you provide further details about the format your data will take in your DMP and any features that may be lost once you convert it for archiving. Open formats may not support all of the original functionality of proprietary formats so you must take steps to hold on to both your raw and converted data sets. Some funders may also have specific requirements surrounding the final form your data should take so be sure to check their policies before committing to any set format.

Further links

How can I preserve and share research software?

By Daniel Van Strien, on 23 May 2018

Research software is an increasingly important research output across all disciplines. Alongside this, there is an increasing recognition of the role of software in supporting the reproducibility of papers.  Whilst there is still work to be done on ensuring proper credit for research software there are already steps that researchers can take to make their software more sustainable whether this software consists of a short script used to generate graphs and other visualisations in a paper or a large software project with many collaborators:

  • We have guidance available outlining some approaches to preserving and sharing research software.
  • UCL benefits from a Research IT Services team who support researchers using software in their research
  • Regular drop-ins offer the opportunity to get support from teams from the Library and Research IT Services on issues related to research software alongside data management, open science or policy questions.

 

 

 

What is FAIR data?

By Daniel Van Strien, on 9 October 2017

The FAIR data principles aim to provide a framework to ensure that research data can be effectively reused. The principles are outlined below alongside recommendations for practically achieving these principles.

Why FAIR data? 

The FAIR Data Principles were developed by a FORCE11 group and originally published in Nature Scientific Data in 2016. The authors argue that ‘Good data management is not a goal in itself, but rather is the key conduit leading to knowledge discovery and innovation, and to subsequent data and knowledge integration and reuse by the community after the data publication process.’

What are the fair data principles?

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How will the changes in Data Protection legislation affect my research project?

By Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, on 21 June 2017

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May 2018. It will replace the current Directive and apply to all EU member states without the need for national legislation. The implementation will require comprehensive changes to the way in which organisations, like UCL, collect, use and transfer personal data.

Please see the UCL Data Protection Office’s guidance on the impact of the GDPR on how researchers will seek consent, on privacy notices, data breaches and more.

 

What should I know about transferring personal data to the U.S. and the new Privacy Shield agreement?

By Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, on 21 June 2017

Privacy Shield Fact SheetFollowing the agreement between the European Commission and United States in 2016, the ‘EU-US Privacy Shield’ is now in force and is therefore the main means of allowing personal data to be transferred to the US.

The EU-US Privacy Shield replaces the invalidated Safe Harbour agreement whilst providing additional obligations to protect personal data, as well as establishing annual monitoring and reporting.

Any new agreement to transfer personal data (including transient transfer) can only be done if the US recipient (this includes universities) has signed up to the Privacy Shield Framework.

Researchers planning on transferring data to the US to a recipient that has not signed up to the Privacy Shield Framework, or who are already working under an existing Safe Harbour agreement, should contact the UCL Data Protection Office (data-protection@ucl.ac.uk).

Further information about the EU-US Privacy Shield can be found on the UCL Data Protection webpages.

What is a DOI?

By Daniel Van Strien, on 17 February 2017

What is a DOI?

DOI stands for ‘Digital Object Identifier’. A DOI is an alphanumeric string assigned to an object which allows for an object to be identified over time. Often a DOI will be presented as a link which looks like: https://doi.org/10.1109/5.771073. A DOI will always point (link) to the current location for an object. A DOI is similar to a URL but unlike a URL a DOI will take you to the correct object even if the object is moved.

Why should I use a DOI?

A DOI is useful for citing your data in journal articles and other publications, it makes it easier for other people to cite your data and makes your data more discoverable. Most of us have had experience of following a link on a website to arrive on a 404 landing page. A DOI aims to avoid this happening with your research data. The use of a DOI or another persistent identifier is often a requirement of research funder policies on sharing underlying data.

Should I use DOI or another identifier for my data?

A DOI provides a persistent identifier for your data and has become a widespread standard. There are other identifiers available which some repositories may use instead. If you are depositing in a reputable repository then you should be given some type of persistent identifier which you can use to cite and link to your data.

It is also important to note that whilst a DOI provides a persistent identifier for your data it is also important that you assign metadata to your data too. This metadata will help others to understand the data you have shared and also make it easier for people to discover data which might be useful for their research.

How do I get a DOI for my data?

Most repositories will assign a DOI to your uploaded data. UCL Discovery and Digital Collections will both mint DOIs for any data shared in these repositories. Other established repositories will provide you with a DOI for your data once it has been uploaded. Once you have a DOI you can use it to cite your underlying data in publications, on the web and to more easily share your data with other researchers.

Is it safe to use cloud services such as Dropbox to store and share data?

By Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, on 7 July 2016

In the Security Knowledge Base, the UCL Information Security team has put together useful advice to help you assess whether using cloud services is safe. The guide enable to consider three important questions:

  1. Is the cloud service secure enough for this type of information?
  2. Is it compliant – and will it remain compliant – with relevant legislation, contractual or regulatory requirements?
  3. Are the other risks that arise from using this service acceptable?

The guide also provides key information on personal data protection, Intellectual Property Right and risk assessment.

If you need an alternative to commercial services you can use the in-house UCL Drop Box.

I intend to apply for a Wellcome Trust or CRUK grant, what should I know about data sharing?

By Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, on 8 February 2016

WTpictureAll Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK grant holders like grant applicants should be aware of the charities’ research data policies. To clarify their requirements, our colleagues at the University of Cambridge have asked them questions related to data management and data sharing.

Their answers are summarised in two useful blog posts:CRUKpicture

Personal and sensitive research data & the law

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 22 January 2016

dataMuch research data about people – even sensitive data – can be shared ethically and legally if researchers employ strategies of informed consent, anonymisation and controlling access to data.  However, researchers obtaining data from people are expected to maintain high ethical standards and comply with relevant legislation and duties.

This guidance is generally provided by professional bodies, host institutions and funding organaisations. The laws that govern the use of data, in addition to the duties of confidentiality, include the following Acts:

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