This policy framework sets out EPSRC’s expectations concerning the management and provision of access to EPSRC-funded research data. EPSRC recognises that a range of institutional policies and practices can satisfy these expectations, and encourages research organisations to develop specific approaches which, while aligned with EPSRC’s expectations, are appropriate to their own structures and cultures.
The expectations arise from seven core principles on data sharing. Two of the principles are of particular importance:
- Publicly funded research data should generally be made as widely and freely available as possible in a timely and responsible manner.
- The research process should not be damaged by the inappropriate release of such data.
The framework was endorsed by the EPSRC Council in March 2011 and implemented on 1 May 2011. It was developed with the benefit of advice from university administrators, academics and research collaborators based in industry.
The policy reflects the principal UK legal provisions intended to assure public access to publicly held information, the most relevant of which to EPSRC-funded research data are contained in the Freedom of Information Act (2000) and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Other relevant legislation includes the Data Protection Act 1998, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. The freedom of information (FOI) acts allow any person to ask any public authority (including universities) for any information they believe to be held by that authority, and require the authority to respond in writing stating whether or not they hold the information sought and, if so, to supply that information unless certain exemptions apply. The exemptions, which may be absolute or qualified, generally relate to considerations such as national security, law enforcement, commercial interests or data protection; all of these may be relevant to research data and a range of guidance is available to help universities understand their obligations. See, for example, Jisc’s advice on FOI and research data.
Note that exemptions in Scotland differ in certain important respects from those in the remainder of the UK.