From Bethesda to Beijing - Open Research Data has arrived!


Last week saw two releases from organisations which will have a big impact on the next decade in academic research. Following on from the US Government’s OPEN data policy in January, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has released their draft open data policy! The NIH is seeking public input on a trans-NIH data management and sharing policy proposal that further advances the Agency’s commitment to responsible data management and sharing. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, CODATA released the The Beijing Declaration on Research Data - and it seems great minds think alike.

The Beijing Declaration is intended as a timely statement of core principles to encourage global cooperation, especially for public research data. Encouragingly, the NIH outputs are the first step towards a live policy, which fits in well with the Beijing Declaration, even before any polishing. The effect of an NIH open data policy on academic research cannot be underestimated. NIH funds $40 billion of research annually. Their policy will apply “to all research, funded or conducted in whole or in part by NIH, that results in the generation of scientific data. This includes research funded or conducted by extramural grants, contracts, intramural research projects, or other funding agreements regardless of NIH funding level or funding mechanism”.

One way in which other funders have raised awareness of new data policies is with data management plans, or data sharing plans. This advice is further compounded by the Beijing Declaration, which guides “Funders of academic and applied research should require the submission of adequate data stewardship plans, including clear guidelines for the provision of long-term availability, accessibility, and conditions for reuse”. So it is of great promise that this is the first requirement of the NIH draft policy. A further interesting development is that NIH may make said plans publicly available.

Organising researchers globally, by way of aligned funder and publisher policies, is no small feat. However, these two new releases highlight that the global academic community appears to have achieved just that. Credit in part must go to global engagement, education and working groups - the most notable of which is the Research Data Alliance (RDA). Figshare has had a presence at every RDA meeting, and while at times it can be perceived to be slow moving, monumental change in academia is only occurring in such a joined up manner due to the depth of thought going into these working groups. An example of this is the Publisher convened, ‘Data Policy Standardisation and Implementation Interest Group’. All stakeholders in academic research are becoming aligned in their approach to making datasets as open as possible, as closed as necessary.

Another obvious global push that comes across in these two documents is FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). Whilst our recent State of Open Data Report demonstrated that awareness of the FAIR principles at the researcher level is still low, at the policy level FAIR is global:

NIH encourages data management and data sharing practices consistent with the NIH Plan for Increasing Access to Scientific Publications and Digital Scientific Data from NIH Funded Scientific Research and the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) data principles.


The Beijing Declaration supports international efforts to make research data as open as possible and only as closed as necessary. It seeks to make data and metadata Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) on a global basis and, wherever possible, automatically processable by machines

This alignment bodes well for academic research data as we head into 2020. At Figshare, we’re happy to see that the NIH encourages the use of established repositories for preserving and sharing scientific data. Curating these files to make the data FAIR will have costs associated - and the NIH is also prepared to cover these costs. It seems that academics will need training in some of these areas. It is of our opinion that the ideal group to be working on this is academic librarians, so we were again encouraged to see that the NIH is looking to the funding recipient institution to be ultimately responsible - “After the end of the funding period, non-compliance with the NIH ICO-approved Plan may be taken into account by the funding NIH ICO for future funding decisions for the recipient institution”.

These policies combined will mean that 2020 sees a huge amount of accountability for research data at all levels. We’re excited to see the speed of research increase as academics can finally truly build on top of the research that has gone before them.

If you have an opinion on the NIH DRAFT policy - they are looking for feedback here by January 10th.

If you have any feedback or woud like to hear more about our NIH Figshare instance please get in touch via, twitter or facebook.

Nov 14, 2019 16:15

This is a reposted article from our blog, the original article can be found at:

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