The theme for 2021 Open Access week is “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity”. Over the next few months academics will hear a lot about the URKI’s new open access policy which starts in April 2022. For authors who aren’t funded by UKRI it can be easy to switch off because this new policy doesn’t affect you, but the principles supporting this new policy should be something that all authors should pay attention because they benefit everyone.
One of the key requirements in the new policy is, all articles must include a data statement. As someone who as part of my role has to search for data statements to ensure compliance, this, makes my heart sing. Finding data statements can be a time-consuming slog of a task, something which should be easy but often isn’t. Under the old UKRI policy authors should have a data statement. Now everyone funded by UKRI must include a data statement. Everyone else, should include one too.
So far, it sounds like just one more thing that you as an author has to do, but if it’s not something you already do, picture this.
If someone searched for the word data in your article, would they be able to find where the underlying data is stored? Would it take them 10 seconds or 5 minutes? Is it even there at all? Times that by 100 every 2 weeks, do you feel my pain?
Now imagine this, you get 20 minutes of access to internet a day which is patchy at best. This example is based on specific real-life events from my childhood when we used dial up that was on the same land line as the phone which had to be clear in case my dad needed it for work. But, what if instead of schoolwork, I was doing something like researching cancer, or new forms of government or, a way to save someone I loved. Is it a good use of limited time and access spending that time and access searching for something that isn’t there or is hidden?
Guiding principles around publicly funded research and institutions are that research should be
- help to increase public trust
- easy to re-use and build upon
- collaborative and efficient
Including a data statements is one way to achieve these principles and to help bring equity into research access.
Data Statements (also known as Data Access Statement and Data Availability statements) describe how and where the underlying data reported on in the article is stored and if there are any access requirements. Remember data isn’t just spreadsheets of numbers it’s anything that supports your findings for example primary source documents.
There isn’t a set way to write a data statement but it should say clearly where the data is stored, and provide a link or contact information so that the reader can go to it/request it. If you can’t share the data because it contains sensitive personal data or the research is ongoing this is OK but you must state this clearly in your article.
Some publishers now have a data availability section in their article structures, if there isn’t a section you should include the data statement in the acknowledgement or notes sections, or if your data is in your reference list, you must clearly identify in the body of the text that it is the underlying data, i.e. the underlying data can be accessed via [reference number].
We have examples and guidance on how to write and include data statements at https://library.soton.ac.uk/researchdata/sharing.
Data Statements signpost readers to the information they might need and consistent good practice means readers learn to know where to look. Solid ticks against the principles of publicly funded research ?
As always, please contact us if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Lapage, Engagement Librarian, Open Research & Publication Practice Team