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Challenges for academic researchers. Dr Michael Jubb FoI and HE researchers University of Manchester 22 March 2011. Aims of the legislation. openness and accountability of public bodies presumption in favour of disclosure applicant-blind and motive-blind

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Challenges for academic researchers

Challenges for academic researchers

Dr Michael Jubb

FoI and HE researchers

University of Manchester

22 March 2011

Aims of the legislation
Aims of the legislation

  • openness and accountability of public bodies

  • presumption in favour of disclosure

    • applicant-blind and motive-blind

    • freedom to pass on the information, so it becomes in effect in the public domain

  • transparency a key theme for the Coalition Government

Aims of universities and researchers
Aims of universities and researchers

  • enhance knowledge and understanding

  • communicate their findings

    • maximise dissemination

    • register claim to the work they have done

    • gain peer recognition and esteem

      • career rewards

      • RAE/REF ratings

      • win the next grant

  • social and economic impact

What do we mean by information
What do we mean by information?

  • ‘information recorded in any form’ (and for certain purposes may include ‘unrecorded information’)

  • methods, tools, SOPs, protocols, computer programmes, algorithms, maps, scans, questionnaires, lab books, samples, images, slides, minutes, proposals, working papers, emails…………

  • data: raw, intermediate, derived, results…..

Research data
Research Data

  • the ‘fourth paradigm’ and the data deluge

  • data as an integral part of the scholarly record

    • links between publications and underlying data

    • validation and quality assurance

  • data as a valuable resource in its own right, for secondary analysis and re-use

    • integration and data mining

Research funders policies
Research funders’ policies

  • codes of practice

    • no explicit requirement on compliance with FoI and EIR

  • data sharing policies

  • “All applications seeking research grant funding from BBSRC must submit a statement on data sharing. This should include concise plans for data management and sharing as part of research grant proposal or provide explicit reasons why data sharing is not possible or appropriate.”


  • consonant with FoI?

Gaps between policy and practice
Gaps between policy and practice?

  • Findings from JISC data management project at Manchester:

    • data management ad hoc and varies from group to group

    • multiple copies, difficult to track down

    • experiment data in lab books: hard to search

    • portable devices used for transfer, sharing, storage

    • back-up policies not in place

    • decentralised and fragmented storage

    • no archiving policies to support long-term curation

Concerns and reservations i
Concerns and reservations: I

  • ‘ownership’ and protection for intellectual capital

  • lack of career rewards for openness and/or sharing

    • especially strong concern for data collected and worked on over many years

    • concerns about being ‘scooped’

    • misuse or inappropriate use: ‘no-one else can really understand my data’

    • lack of standardisation

  • desire for control over when, how and with whom to share

Concerns and reservations ii
Concerns and reservations: II

  • costs in time and money

  • administrative overhead for researchers and support staff

    • in records and data management

    • in dealing with requests (particularly where there is a concerted campaign)


  • efficiency gains through managing records and data effectively

    • once effective systems have been put in place……

  • FoI requests can be refused if estimated cost of obtaining the information exceeds £450

Concerns and reservations iii
Concerns and reservations: III

  • commercial/competitive interests

    • risk to partnerships with public and private sector bodies in UK and overseas

    • risk to research performance (and RAE/REF scores) of individuals, groups and universities

    • risks to exploitation of IPR (IP-hunting by industrial and scientific competitors)

  • a sector-wide risk?


  • qualified exemption for trade secrets, and information likely to prejudice commercial interests

Concerns and reservations iv
Concerns and reservations: IV

  • quality assurance

    • dissemination of undigested and untested data and information

    • dissemination of mistakes and cock-ups

    • data deluge

    • risk to confidence in the research community


    • promotion of ‘meaningful informed debate’

Concerns and reservations v
Concerns and reservations: V

  • risk to long-term and/or controversial research projects

    • where the research depends on gathering and analysing data over a long period of time

      • risk of loss to free-riders

    • where researchers risk attracting concerted campaigns during the course of their research

      • from the UK and overseas

Control and timing
Control and timing

  • disciplinary differences

    • genomics different from neurology, particle physics different from chemical engineering

  • key questions

  • what data?

  • what other kinds of information?

  • in what formats?

  • to whom?

  • when?

    • especially in relation to the timing of peer-reviewed publications

The publication exemption
The publication exemption

  • “Information is exempt if the information held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not).” (s.22)

  • need for clarity about what is to be published, in what format, and when

    • data (raw, intermediate, derived, results…..)

    • methods, tools, SOPs, protocols, computer programmes, algorithms, maps, scans, questionnaires, lab books, samples, images, slides, minutes, proposals, working papers, emails…………

The scottish exemption
The Scottish exemption

  • information obtained in the course of, or derived from, a programme of research is exempt if

    • the programme is continuing with a view to publication

    • disclosure before publication would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially

      • the programme

      • the interests of any individual participating in it

      • the interests of the authority which holds the information

        FOISA s 27

  • a desirable exemption for the rest of the UK?

The muir russell recommendations
The Muir Russell recommendations

  • all data, metadata and codes necessary to allow independent replication of results should be provided concurrent with peer-reviewed publication

  • ensure that when you rely in a publication on data held by others, that the data is archived and available in a timely way

  • universities should develop formal approaches for training of researchers in handling and sharing of research data

  • funders should make clear how important (sic) data and metadata should be preserved

    • make explicit budgetary and resource provision

    • clear statement of requirements as to which data should be placed in public domain, and any constraints on timing of such release

  • ICO should hold consultations on definitions of research data, and on time for which they can be withheld

Bbsrc position
BBSRC position

  • BBSRC recognises

    • the importance of contributing to the growing international efforts in data sharing.

    • that making research data more readily available will reinforce open scientific enquiry and stimulate new investigations and analyses.

    • that data sharing should be led by the scientific community and driven by scientific need.

    • it should also be cost effective and the data shared should be of the highest quality.

    • that different fields of study will require different approaches: what is sensible in one area may not work in others

    • researchers have a legitimate interest in benefiting from their own time and effort in producing the data but not in prolonged exclusive use of these data

    • the need to safeguard intellectual property and to protect opportunities for commercialisation of research outputs



Michael Jubb