Open research data: positive interim result after two years

SNSF-funded researchers are obliged to make their data publicly accessible – provided there are no legal or ethical issues that stand in the way. A report now shows how researchers are implementing the guidelines.

In October 2017, the SNSF introduced its open research data (ORD) policy, together with two implementation measures:

  • Every funding application must now include a data management plan (DMP). The plan describes how the researchers intend to manage, store and publish their data.
  • The SNSF covers the costs of data preparation and uploading to repositories – up to a maximum of 10,000 francs. The repository must comply with the FAIR data principles, i.e. the data needs to be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

No revisions necessary in most cases

For the report, the SNSF evaluated 1516 applications, which were submitted in response to several calls for different funding schemes. The interim result after two years: in all, over 70 per cent of the plans follow the SNSF guidelines and do not require revision before the start of the project.

The other plans need to be revised by the researchers. This is mainly the case if the data is only made available on request, as an attachment to a publication, or on a website. Additional reasons for revision are, e.g., vague statements about the way in which the data will be shared or the reasons why it will not be shared immediately or at all.

"We are very pleased that the majority of data management plans are of good quality so soon after the new requirements became binding," says Lionel Perini, member of the open research data working group. "After some time the researchers will know them better, and the share of plans that don't need revision is therefore likely to grow."

Only 16 per cent of the applications ask the SNSF to make a contribution towards the ORD costs, mostly 5,000 to 10,000 francs. Lionel Perini says: "The existing arrangements seem to satisfy researchers' needs."

General repositories preferred

Where do researchers prefer to store their data? In all, the analysed plans were published in 146 different repositories. A small number of them were named very frequently, but most only once or twice. The analysis shows tha‫t many researchers prefer general and institutional over discipline-specific repositories. This could change when repositories for individual disciplines become more well-known ‬‬.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The analysis is based mainly on the aims that the researchers outlined in their data management plans. The actual practice of data management and sharing will be the subject of future reports.‬‬‬

Global trend

The SNSF requirements regarding open data are in line with an international trend. The SNSF wants to be a leading voice in discussions about open access to research data both nationally and internationally. To this end, it is collaborating with swissuniversities, the rectors' conference of higher education institutions, to develop a national strategy on open research data. Katrin Milzow, head of strategy at the SNSF, stresses the importance of the topic: "Open science is a strategic priority in our multi-year programme 2021-2024. Research, the economy and society at large all benefit from free access to data and publications."