Open access to research data is part of the transition to an open science system, which benefits both research and our knowledge-intensive society. It makes it possible to validate the results of research and continue building on them, which is of great importance for the development of research. Open access to research data can also contribute to raising the quality of research, promoting utilisation, and creating greater trust in research.
Openly accessible research data means that they are published freely accessible on the internet as far as possible.
The purpose of the Swedish Research Council’s vision and guiding principles for open access to research data is to lay the foundation for a coordinated transition to open access to research data, and to assist the achievement of the national goal – a fully completed transition no later than 2026, by integrating open access into the research process and into the way of working, relevant procedures and processes of the organisations involved. Research data refers to data that is collected or produced within the framework for scientific research activities.
The vision aims to show an expected future picture of what we want to achieve. The guiding principles aim to promote a similar direction and aligned initiatives in the implementation of open access to research data among the actors involved.
The vision and the principles can be used to support the strategic work of managing research data among the actors involved, for example when developing relevant policy documents. They are worded in a general way , in order to constitute a common foundation for a coordinated transition to open access to research data.
The target group is primarily the actors affected by open access to research data: researchers, higher education institutions, infrastructures, research funding bodies and public agencies that perform and fund research and development, but the vision and the principles may be relevant to others as well.
Vision: As open as possible, as closed as necessary
The national goal is that the transition to open access to research data shall be fully implemented no later than 2026. This is the Swedish Research Council’s vision:
- Research data that is produced by publicly funded research should be made accessible according to the principle: “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. Open access to research data is part of the transition to an open science system.
- An assessment of the opportunities to make data openly accessible is a natural part of the research process.
- A long-term national coordinating organisation to promote and support open access to and the usability of research data.
- Research infrastructures support open access to research data.
- Fully developed incentive systems that support the transition to open access to research data have been established.
How we achieve this – guiding principles
Principle 1. Open access to research data is created according to the principle “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”
Access to research data should not be restricted when there is no reason for this, and restrictions on use should not be created when they are not necessary.
An assessment of the opportunities for open access should be made an integral part of the research process and when planning the data management. In the first instance, this involves assessing whether and when open access to research data via internet can be created. This includes deciding whether there are circumstances that prevent publishing. This can, for example, be that the data is confidential, or that publication would entail not permitted management of personal data.
In other cases, there may be assessments based on other factors, such as practical or technical aspects, or available resources.
Principle 2. Coordinated open access to research data becomes a natural part of the way of working
Strategic, supportive and technical measures to ensure the principles for open access to research data can be complied with should be established at organisational level, and be part of the strategic direction and of concrete processes and procedures. On implementation, it should also be considered whether there are common established, technical solutions or infrastructures that can be used for this purpose.
Organisations that perform or fund research should design and implement incentive systems that promote open access to research data.
Open access to research data needs to be included in a coordinated way in the strategic documents and processes of the organisations in question, and should be adopted at top management level. Researchers should be offered the necessary support to enable practical implementation.
Principle 3. The usability of openly accessible research data shall be in focus when making them accessible
The research data that are made openly accessible and information that is needed for their use, such as documentation on software, shall be managed and documented in such a way that they become as usable as possible, and easy to find and understand.To promote the usability of research data that is made openly accessible, the data management should follow the FAIR principles. Fulfilment of the principle needs to be weighed against the input required, the use potential of the data, and the preconditions that exist for achieving them.
The Swedish Research Council’s recommendations
Recommendation on open access to research data
The Swedish Research Council recommends that research data financed via public funds, and that applicable legislation allows to be published, should be published openly accessible on the internet within a reasonable time after the research results have been published.
Determining what data can be published with open access shall always be based on applicable legislation. Some research data must not be published with open access due to legal or ethical aspects (if they are covered by secrecy legislation, or include personal data or copyright material, for example), but the options for publishing data may also be affected by other factors, such as the volume of the data sets.
If open access to research data cannot be provided, the reason why this is not possible should be documented.This recommendation relates to data that is created during the research process and forms the basis for scientific publications. If already existing data from other actors have been used, such as various types of public agency data, then these data only constitute research data if they have been analysed, processed or otherwise refined during the research process. Already existing data that have only been used in their original form and that are already managed and made accessible by another actor are not covered by this recommendation.
Both research data and data describing research data (known as ‘metadata’) should be published with open access. If there are obstacles to publishing research data, the focus should in the first instance be on making metadata openly accessible on the internet. In this way, users can find information on what research data exist, even when there are obstacles to open publication, for example lack of a suitable publication platform or technical limitations that prevent all data from being published.
Publication of research data can be done using various digital platforms, for example via the higher education institution where the research is conducted or via other relevant national and/or international portals, infrastructures and similar organisations and platforms. The publication of research data shall always be based on the FAIR principles.
Recommendation on data management according to FAIR
The Swedish Research Council recommends that the research data produced through research are managed according to the FAIR principles, clarified via the criteria developed by the Swedish Research Council to achieve FAIR data.
The FAIR principles should be implemented taking into account applicable legislation, and, as far as is possible and applicable, based on the technical, organisational and/or discipline-specific preconditions that apply.
The recommendation relates in the first instance to research data (and metadata) financed by public funds that can be published with open access, but the application of the FAIR principles can be made broader than this, and be relevant also for research data that cannot be published entirely openly. The recommendation on data management according to FAIR is overarching, and aims to create a common starting point for the implementation of FAIR data management.
Recommendation on the use of a template for data management plans
The Swedish Research Council recommends that the template for data management plans produced by the Swedish Research Council and the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) is used.
The template for data management plans is based on the ‘basic requirements’ set by Science Europe, and contains six common sections that a data management plan should describe.
The template can, as necessary, be expanded with more questions to make local or discipline-specific adaptations. To support the template, an accompanying guide has been produced.
Here we have gathered together relevant documents which can be used as practical support for the principles and recommendations.
See also information from other actors: