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  • Writer's pictureAsh Bassili

Researchers must do a better job of managing their research data

This is the second of a series of blog posts focused on research data sharing. They were prompted after reading a February 2023 article in The Economist titled "There is a worrying amount of fraud in medical research" and learning that 93% of requests for underlying data are not addressed.

Effective data management and planning is crucial in research. It is the process of collecting, organizing, storing, and sharing data to ensure that research results are valid, reliable, and reproducible. Research data can be diverse and complex, ranging from raw data with personal information, to processed data, and metadata. It requires adequate planning and management to guarantee its quality, accessibility, and security. Researchers are ultimately responsible for data management plans supporting their research activities. This blog explores their role in research data management.

Designing data management plans

Researchers are responsible for designing data management plans (DMPs) that outline the processes for collecting, organizing, storing, and sharing data. DMPs serve as a roadmap for the entire research team regarding how they will manage research data collected and processed in conjunction with that research. Effective data management plans include the following:

  • Description of the data - A detailed description of the data they plan to collect, including the format, structure, and type of data.

  • Data collection and storage - An outline of how data is collected and stored, including any security measures that will be put in place.

  • Data sharing - How data will be shared, including any embargo periods and data access restrictions.

  • Data preservation - How data will be preserved for future use, including the storage location and the format.

Ensuring data quality and accuracy

Researchers are responsible for ensuring that the data they collect is of high quality and accuracy. They design their data collection methods to minimize errors and bias. They ensure the use of appropriate tools and software to process and analyze data. Just as important is the metadata that describes the data, including any assumptions or limitations, to enable others to interpret and use the research results and data appropriately.

Promoting data sharing and reuse

Researchers are always encouraged to publish and share their research results to accelerate knowledge transfer. Indeed, most government grants now come with that stipulation. To do so, they need to be able to publish and make available their research data to others and should use platforms that facilitate a controlled collaboration and transparency.

Ensuring data privacy and security

Researchers must also ensure that research data is adequately protected from unauthorized access, loss, or theft. They must comply with data protection regulations and ethical standards and seek ethical approval before collecting and using personal data. This also includes the engagement with research legal services to establish appropriate data sharing agreements and consent forms are presented to and collected from team members, collaborators, and participants. Researchers must ensure that the platforms they are using have appropriate data security measures, such as encryption, firewalls, and access controls, to safeguard their research data.

In conclusion, effective data management and planning are essential for conducting high-quality research. Researchers play an important role in ensuring that research data is appropriately managed, shared, and preserved. Researchers should seek tools and techniques that allow them to design data management plans that support data quality and accuracy, promote data sharing and reuse, and ensure data privacy and security. This positions researchers to deliver research data that is both accessible and reliable.


Image by Andrew Neel
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