Handbook on open access to research data
The handbook aims to create increased understanding of what open access to research data means. It also raises related issues, such as FAIR data management and data management plans.
Frequently asked questions on open access to research data
Open access to research data means that research data are published freely available on the internet. If these data can be used and reused with no conditions other than stating the source, they are defined as ‘open access research data’.
FAIR is an internationally adopted concept that means that research data is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. The concept is constructed from 15 guiding principles. If the data management fulfils all the principles, the research data can be defined as ‘FAIR’.
For more information on how data management plans and the FAIR principles relate to each other, please see p. 32–33 in Science Europe’s report below, where the issues in the central parts are linked to the different principles.
If you are conducting research at a Swedish governmental higher education institution, your work is covered by the research principal’s* requirements for archiving and screening. It is important that you contact your research principal to learn about the guidelines and procedures for archiving and sifting that apply in your organisation. Other research principals outside the public sector may also be covered by the requirements above.
Research data shall be archived at the public agency, such as a higher education institution, where the research has been conducted. The archive personnel, data protection officer or lawyers in your organisation can provide help on issues of how to go about this. Most higher education institutions have personnel who can provide both practical help and advice.
Storage of personal data
There are rules that may require you to sift out personal data already while your research project is in progress. For example, personal data may only be processed for as long as necessary to fulfil the purpose of the processing. Personal data that is no longer needed shall therefore be removed, in a way that ensures regulations and archiving and sifting requirements are complied with and fulfilled.
What is the difference between ‘storage’ and ‘long-term preservation’?
Storage means the technical storage of data. Long-term preservation means that you also ensure that data can be found and understood over time, for example by adding relevant metadata.
*The research principal is the physical or legal entity within whose organisation the research is conducted, such as a higher education institution, a municipality, a public agency or a private company.
The teacher exclusion clause is an exclusion from the right to employees’ inventions as stated in Swedish legislation on rights to inventions at work (SFS 1949:345). Research data is normally not covered by the teacher exclusion clause. To find out what applies for specific research data, please contact your higher education institution.
No, the fact that research data are official documents does not mean the same thing as open access, that is, that research data can be published freely available on the internet.
In August 2022, a new Swedish law governing accessibility to public sector data came into force (Lag (2022:818) om den offentliga sektorns tillgängliggörande av data). The law has provisions that apply to public bodies making research data accessible. The law implements the EU Directive on Open Data and the Re-use of Public Sector Information. The the open data law replaces a previous law (Lagen (2010:566) om vidareutnyttjande av handling från den offentliga förvaltningen), known as the PSI law.
Purpose of the legislation
The law aims to promote the public sector making data accessible so that it can be used for other purposes, in particular in the form of open data, on condition that requirements for information security and protection of personal data can be maintained, and that Sweden’s security is not compromised.
Actors that will be applying the legislation
The law is the starting point for public actors. For higher education institutions (HEIs) whose principal is national government, it will only apply for research data. The limitation to research data also applies for other public agencies whose activities include carrying out or funding research, or who make research data directly accessible. For such public agencies’ other activities, the law also applies to other data. For higher education institution libraries, the limitation to research data only applies if the library has been tasked to carry out or fund research, or to make research data directly accessible. Some public actors are exempted from the law. This applies for example to cultural institutions other than libraries, museums and archives.
Research data covered by the legislation
According to the legislation, data is defined as information in digital format, irrespective of the medium. Research data refers in the law to data that to some extent is publicly funded, collected or produced within the framework for scientific research activities, and made directly accessible for further use via a publicly accessible data platform. Research data may, for example, include statistics and results from experiments, metadata, requirement specification and other digital objects
The fact that research data is to some extent publicly funded can, for example, mean that they have been produced within the framework for a research project that is wholly or partly publicly funded. Research projects that are co-funded by a public body and a private company shall also be regarded as partly publicly funded.
Some data are excluded from the legislation. These are data that some persons, due to their identity or position, have a specific right to access according to some other law or ordinance. Nor does the law apply to data covered by sole rights, for example according to patent legislation (Patentlag (1967:837)), or that a third party has rights over according to copyright legislation (Lag (1960:729) om upphovsrätt till litterära och konstnärliga verk).
When the legislation applies
The legislation shall apply when someone who has the right to access data according to some other law or ordinance requests that data is made accessible for further use. It shall also apply when a public actor, on their own initiative, made data covered by the legislation accessible for the purpose of it being further used.
The legislation does not apply when data is transferred between national and municipal public agencies, or when data is transferred from a publicly governed body that is treated as equal to a public agency, or from a publicly owned company to a national or municipal public agency. Nor does the legislation apply when a national or municipal public agency provides data in an activity that is open to competition.
According to the legislation, research data has been made directly accessible when they are accessible to the general public for further use via a data platform. This means that the legislation does not apply for research data that is made accessible following an individual request according to national regulations governing access to data.
Preconditions for accessibility to research data
Research data shall be made accessible to the extent that requirements for data security and protection of personal data can be maintained, and on condition that they do not entail a risk to Sweden’s security. Special requirements apply in relation to format and conditions for further use.
Information about data that has been made accessible or is searchable
The Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), has been tasked to publish digitally a list of data that have been made accessible or searchable on the internet according to the legislation, and will inform about more detailed regulations for the content and design of the list, and whether the information to be provided about data that is made accessible or searchable in the list.
Actors covered by the new legislation shall provide information to DIGG about data that they, at their own initiative, have made accessible or searchable on the internet for the purpose of the data being further used.
A fee for making data accessible for further use may be charged under certain circumstances. Research data shall, however, be made accessible free of charge.
Questions about how the legislation shall be interpreted or implemented
If you are a researcher or handle research data in some other role and have a question about how the law should be interpreted or implemented in a certain case, please contact the person responsible for issues relating to accessibility of data in your organisation.
We have based the above information on the following texts:
Frequently asked questions about data management plans
The Swedish Research Council has been mandated to coordinate the work of introducing open access to research data in Sweden. The requirement for data management plans is part of this work, and promotes what is known as ‘good data management’. Good data management is important to ensure research data can be used, quality assessed, preserved and be made available openly on the internet.
The requirement for data management plans applies to the Swedish Research Council’s grants for research generating research data.* The requirement applies to all who are awarded grants as from spring 2019.
*Exceptions are grants to organisations/organisation grants, network grants and conference grants.
You must produce a data management plan describing how data collected or created in your research will be managed – both while you carry out the research and afterwards.
Your administrating organisation is responsible for ensuring a data management plan is produced, and that the plan is maintained.
Is there a template I can use?
When you produce your data management plan, you can use the template produced by the Swedish Research Council and the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF). It consists of six central parts that a data management plan should cover.
Shall I send the data management plan to the Swedish Research Council?
Your application to the Swedish Research Council may include funding for all types of project-related costs. However, parts of the data management, such as storage of data, may be the responsibility of your higher education institution, and should therefore be funded by it.
What applies for costs of drawing up a data management plan?
Project-related costs for Swedish Research Council grants only refer to costs that arise during the grant period, which normally starts on 1 January. The data management plan must be drawn up before the research starts, however. On condition that the costs of drawing up a data management plan can be directly attributed to the project in question, and the costs arise during the project period (grant period) and not before, they may be included.
If you have any questions about how to handle and store your research data, please contact your higher education institution.
The Swedish Research Council’s website Registerforskning.se External link. has general information on what applies when you use register data in your research.