Open Data Statement of Principles

November 20, 2018

IDRC embraces the principle of sharing research data and encourages researchers to make their data openly available. We will support researchers seeking to share their research data and we will proactively work with researchers who are generating significant data to make it open and accessible.

IDRC believes that open research data can accelerate collaboration and scientific discovery, and supports the fundamental scientific requirement of allowing others to confirm or challenge research results; and as a public research funder we should work to remove barriers to research results (see IDRC’s Open Access Policy) and the underlying data that informs it.

Our Open Data principles:

  • Open access to research data is of fundamental importance to IDRC’s mandate and to developing-country researchers;
  • Data gathering and data management are to be conducted in a manner that maximizes the potential for data sharing;
  • Promoting open data should not place an undue burden on IDRC’s grantees or IDRC itself;
  • Not all research data should be shared. IDRC acknowledges that the nature of the research data itself due to ethical, cultural, legal or intellectual property considerations may create legitimate grounds for data protection or limited access (see questions and guidance section for additional information). 

Way Forward

We envision this Statement of Principles will remain in effect for a three-year period as we implement plans to support research data management and sharing together with the researchers we support. During this period, IDRC will strengthen the expertise of staff and researchers to promote open access to research data. Following this period, IDRC anticipates that we will be in an informed position to articulate our commitment to open data and the means to realize those commitments. 

This incremental approach is informed by an organizational readiness assessment and consultations with the researchers we support. After undertaking an open data pilot project, we have a better understanding of the complexities and issues surrounding open data. IDRC funded research spans numerous countries and disciplines, and promoting open research in these varied contexts is not straightforward. IDRC recognizes that building the requisite skills and tools to promote open data will take time.

While this Statement remains in effect, IDRC will support researchers who proactively seek to make their data open, and proactively identify opportunities to increase the number of research projects making research data open.

To support open research data, IDRC will promote:

  • The use of Data Management Plans (DMPs) as a tool for IDRC staff and funded researchers to develop and implement open data;
  • Data that are accessible and intelligible in open, non-proprietary formats.  Any user should be able to discover, retrieve, download, assess, mine, copy, analyse, re-process, disseminate or use the data without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself;
  • The application of the most recent version of the Creative Commons Attribution License or an equivalent license so that no restrictions or charges are placed on data reuse; and,
  • Access to research data in a timely manner, normally within 12 months of the research project completion date.

Questions and Guidance

  • Can currently funded researchers receive support to make their research data open?

IDRC welcomes researchers who are interested in making their research data open to contact their IDRC program officer to discuss the opportunity. IDRC will consider each case on its merits and, if additional resources are required, will support reasonable costs. 

  • How does IDRC define research data and open data?

Research data are data that are collected, observed, or created for purposes of analysis and that underpin research results.  Examples include spreadsheets of original quantitative measurements, audio recordings of qualitative studies, text from questionnaires, software code and image files. Research data is ‘open’ when it is made freely available on the internet and permits any user to find, access, understand and use it without financial, legal, or technical barriers.

  • What role do Data Management Plans play in supporting this Policy?

DMPs will be the primary management tool for grantees and IDRC to promote open data. Grantees will be guided by IDRC staff when DMPs are required.

  • What will be included in DMPs?

There is no uniform template at this time. The following categories and questions are indicative of the information that will be requested.

  1. Roles and Responsibilities: Who is involved and who is responsible for the design and implementation of the DMP?
  2. Expected Data: What is the most significant or potentially valuable data to be collected or created during the research project? How will the data be collected or created? Are there ethical and legal issues to be managed (e.g., privacy or security considerations, copyright and intellectual property rights)? Are any restrictions on data sharing required?
  3. Period of Retention: How will the data be stored and backed up during the research process? Who will have access and what security protocols will be adhered to? When will the data be shared?
  4. Data Format and Dissemination: What documentation will accompany the data? What standards will be used for data and metadata format and content? What open software and tools will be used to generate the data and replicate the research results?
  5. Data Storage and Preservation of Access: What is the long-term preservation plan for the data? How will other researchers be able to access the data?
  6. Budget: What resources are required to implement the plan?

What kinds of data should not be shared?

There are legitimate grounds that will exempt researchers from making their research data open. Broadly speaking, the following categories represent grounds for limited or non-disclosure:

  1. Human Subject Grounds – Data sharing may be incompatible with ethical research protocols that protect human subjects, for example, sometimes even anonymized data, when released with other contextual data, can be used to identify victims of gender-based violence, exposing them to additional harm ;
  2. Privacy Grounds – Data sharing may be incompatible with privacy laws;
  3. Regulatory Grounds-Governing laws or institutional policies may limit data sharing; 
  4. Intellectual Property Grounds – Under certain circumstances, data sharing may interfere with seeking approved intellectual property protection for project inventions;
  5. Financial or Technical Grounds - Data sharing may present financial and technical hurdles for research teams that cannot be reasonably addressed during the funding period;
  6. Judgement - IDRC staff will exercise judgement when deciding whether the funding opportunities they launch will require DMPs. When doing so, staff will reflect on program plans and priorities and the merits of each case.
  • How will the costs associated with planning, managing and sharing data be covered?

Costs associated with the implementation of a DMP are considered an eligible research expense. Reasonable costs will be supported.

  • When does the data need to be shared?

Data submitted to a trusted data repository should be accessible within 12 months of the research project completion date. Notwithstanding publisher requirements, data underlying journal articles should be open for verification of research results at the time of publication. Delays or limits on data sharing should be addressed in the DMP.

  • How do IDRC grantees inform IDRC that they have shared their data?

The grantees should submit metadata on their open data to IDRC Connect, IDRC’s output submission platform.Metadata should include a digital object identifier (DOI) or a persistent URL linked to the trusted repository. IDRC will not host its own open research data repository.

  • What are IDRC’s responsibilities for supporting open data?

IDRC will:

  1. Inform researchers of this Statement;
  2. Advise researchers on and review DMPs;
  3. Support reasonable costs related to DMPs;
  4. Monitor grantees’ efforts to manage and share data throughout the research project cycle, collaborate with researchers to identify challenges and barriers, and explore solutions as needed;
  5. Consider data sharing activities as part of the selection process for future funding,  and;
  6. Review implementation of this Statement and identify opportunities for improvement.