Skip to main content

Open research

Open research embodies the ideas of best research practices by opening up participation in – and access to – the research lifecycle. It covers a wide range of practices and principles related to how research is carried out and enables research to take advantage of technical advances.

Publications, data, protocols and equipment all support dissemination, verification and reproducibility of research findings as well as re-use by, for example, other researchers and industry. Open research has strong links with policies in other areas such as research integrity, research culture, digital infrastructure, talent and skills and research ethics.

On this page you will find resources predominantly referring to open access and open research data. However, we recognise that open research covers a much broader range of activities than this and new resources will be added as they become available.

This was an active policy area before UKRI was formed, so much of the guidance refers to RCUK and HEFCE policies. UKRI is currently in the final stages of reviewing its open access policy and will then be undertaking a review of open research data and software policy and practice. These activities will support the formation of new UKRI materials.

Key principles

Open research describes a range of practices relating to the conduct of research and communication of its outputs. By improving access to research outputs according to best practices that enable research to be findable, accessible, re-useable and interoperable (FAIR) researchers have more opportunity to engage, replicate and accelerate knowledge discoveries and to benefit society and the economy.

Key principles include:

  • outputs from publicly-funded research should be freely accessible as soon as possible under conditions that maximise re-use to amplify social, economic and research benefits
  • open access to publications and research data stimulates high-quality research by being transparent, opening research to scrutiny and by evidencing research findings
  • sharing of research outputs must conform to all relevant ethical and legal obligations and conform with the principle of being as open as possible and as closed as necessary
  • open research means acting in a manner which considers public value for money and affordability.

Legal requirements and related guidance

Common Law of Confidentiality

The common law of confidentiality provides legal protection for confidential information. The common law of confidence is not affected by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and must be followed. The duty occurs where confidential information comes to the knowledge of a person in circumstances where it would be unfair if it were then to be disclosed to others.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The EU GDPR governs the processing (acquiring, holding and using) of personal data in the UK. Although the new legislation has not been designed specifically for research, it is important that researchers understand what it means for their research activities. As per UKRI terms and conditions, you must ensure that the research supported by UKRI is carried out in accordance with GDPR.

Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As per UKRI terms and conditions, you must ensure that the research supported by UKRI is carried out in accordance with all applicable ethical, legal and regulatory requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018.

GDPR advice for researchers (PDF, 222KB)

This guidance document provides an overview of GDPR from a research perspective, it covers what counts as personal data, its impact on research and outlines what GDPR means for you and any personal data processed during your research.

Section 251 of the National Health Service Act

Section 251 was established to enable the common law duty of confidentiality to be lifted to enable disclosure of confidential patient information for medical purposes This applies where it is not possible to use anonymised information and where seeking consent was not practical.

Copyright and intellectual property

Here you will find links to resources which provide an introduction to copyright and intellectual property, information on how to manage copyright and associated exceptions.

General policies and guidance

Guidance on best practice in the management of research data

In this document you will find the Research Councils’ common principles on data policy, as well as information on research data costs and guidelines on data management plans, including links to Research Council guidance.

RCUK policy on open access and supporting guidance

This policy applies only to the publication of peer-reviewed research articles and conference proceedings that acknowledge funding from the UK’s Research Councils. The document contains a policy statement and supporting guidance for researchers, host institutions and publishers, including information on the Open Access Block Grant. As stated in UKRI terms and conditions, research publications should be published in accordance with normal academic practices and this policy.

RCUK policy on open access – frequently asked questions (PDF, 158 KB)

This document provides a set of frequently asked questions on the RCUK open access policy.

REF 2021: Overview of open access policy and guidance

This summary document brings together all guidance on the open access policy for REF 2021, as set out in the guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) and the audit guidance (REF 2019/04).

Research data management toolkit

This toolkit aims to support you by signposting resources from a wide range of websites and organisations, sorted by topic and audience. You can follow a user pathway or browse the website using a research data lifecycle chart.

The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

Open research data: clinical trials and public health interventions

Research Information Network – acknowledgement of funders in scholarly journal articles (PDF, 70KB)

This document provides guidance for UK research funders, authors and publishers.

Concordats

Concordat on open data research (PDF, 180KB)

This concordat will help to ensure research data gathered and generated is, wherever possible, made openly available for use by others in a manner consistent with relevant legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks and disciplinary norms.

NOTEThis is the first phase of our new website – let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.