ESRC data management plan and policy

ESRC data management plan and policy

Making research available

The ESRC research data policy recognises research data as the main assets of economic and social research. It expects data generated through ESRC-funded research to be made available and accessible for secondary scientific research, with as few restrictions on reuse as possible, in a timely and responsible manner.

ESRC has a longstanding arrangement with the UK Data Service as a place for the deposit of research data, with grant holders required to submit data resulting from their research grants via the UK Data Service ReShare repository or an alternative responsible repository. If the data resulting from an ESRC grant is made available via an alternative responsible repository to increase discoverability of the collection a metadata record must be created in ReShare. We enable data reuse by preserving data and making them available to the research and teaching communities.

To ensure FAIR data can be made available and re-used the ESRC requires a data management plan for all applications generating data. Please find out more information about this below.

Data management plan required for ESRC research grant applications

ESRC requires a data management plan for all research grant applications generating data.

A robust plan will ensure a structured approach to managing data from early in the research process, resulting in better quality data that are ready to deposit for further reuse and sharing. We provide guidance on research data management planning.

ESRC expects grant holders to consider all issues related to data confidentiality, ethics, security and copyright, before initiating their research. Any challenges to data sharing, such as intellectual property rights or data sensitivity and confidentiality, should be critically considered in a plan, with possible solutions discussed to optimise data sharing.

An ESRC data management plan includes the following sections:

  • An explanation of the existing data sources that will be used by the research project, with references.
  • An analysis of the gaps identified between the currently available and required data for the research.
  • Explanation that secondary sources of data have been considered and evaluated.
  • Explanation if the project is not creating new data when there are existing resources that could be re-used.

Where research grant applicants plan to create new data as part of their ESRC-funded proposal, they must demonstrate that no other suitable data are available for re-use.

ESRC encourages the re-use of existing data and therefore encourages applicants and grant holders to consider the breadth of data available from various sources before committing to primary data collection.

When using existing data sources, consider copyright and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of those data and the conditions of their use, to decide whether resulting derived data can be shared.

Data sources that can be consulted are:

  • UK Data Service data catalogue, with over 9,000 collections of economic, social and population research data spanning many disciplines and themes.
  • UKRI Gateway to Research containing information about past and present research grants and their outputs.
  • CESSDA Data Catalogue containing metadata for over 31,000 collections from European Social Science Data Archives.

Provide information on the data that will be produced or accessed by the research project with a key focus on:

  • data volume
  • data type
  • data quality, formats, standards documentation and metadata
  • methodologies for data collection and/or processing
  • source and trustworthiness of third party data.

Using standardised and interchangeable data formats ensures the long-term usability of data. Clear and detailed data descriptions and annotation, together with user-friendly accompanying documentation on methods and contextual information, makes data easy to understand and interpret and therefore shareable and with long-lasting usability.

Guidance on data formats

Guidance on documenting data

Quality control of data is an integral part of a research process. The section should briefly describe the procedures for quality assurance that will be carried out on the data collected at the time of data collection, data entry, digitisation and data checking. Ensure to add information on any software, tools and methodologies you are planning to for these processes.

For example this may include:

  • Documenting the calibration of instruments.
  • Taking duplicate samples or measurements.
  • Standardised data capture, data entry or recording methods.
  • Data entry validation techniques (e.g. QAMyData).
  • Methods of transcription.
  • Peer review of data.

Guidance on data quality control

Describe the data security and backup procedures including version control that you will adopt to ensure the data and metadata are securely stored during the lifetime of the project. If your data is sensitive (e.g. detailed personal data) you should discuss appropriate security measures in line with the Data Protection legislation when handling and storing data, e.g. Privacy Impact Assessments, encrypting data, anonymising data, Data Sharing Agreements. Procedures vary from one institution to another and we advise grant holders to consult their institution’s policy on storage and backup of data.

Guidance on storing, backup and security

Guidance on version control

Outline your plans for preparing, organising and documenting data. A crucial part of making data user-friendly, shareable and with long-lasting usability, is to ensure they can be understood and correctly used by other researchers. This requires clear and detailed data description, annotation and contextual information, as well as good-structured and well-organised data files. Ensure you differentiate between the different types of data (secondary, personal, de-identified, anonymised etc.) and that you specify the plans for each type of data you are using/producing.

Guidance on documenting data

Guidance on transcribing qualitative data

Guidance on organising data

Identify any potential obstacles to sharing your data and explain possible measures you can apply to overcome these. State explicitly which data may be difficult to share and why. If secondary data under strict distribution licences are used explain if you will seek permission to share or if code will be made available. For primary data if ethical issues could cause difficulties in data sharing, explain your strategies for dealing with these issues in the relevant section of the Je-S form, e.g. discussing data sharing with interviewees as part of consent discussions and anonymising data.

The ESRC supports the position that most data can be curated and shared ethically, provided researchers pay attention right from the planning stages of research to the following aspects:

  • When gaining informed consent, include consent for data sharing.
  • Where needed, protect participants’ identities by anonymising data.
  • Address access restrictions to data in the data management and sharing plan, before commencing research.

Guidance on ethical issues

Guidance on rights in data

Guidance on Data Protection Act

Guidance on other rights including Freedom of Information Act

Make explicit mention of the planned procedures to handle consent for data sharing for data obtained from human participants, and/or how to anonymise data, to make sure that data can be made available and accessible for future scientific research.

If you are unsure of how issues of confidentiality are to be addressed to facilitate data sharing, please get in touch for advice.

Guidance on consent and ethics

Guidance on anonymising data

State who will own the copyright and IPR of any new data that you will generate. Consideration should be given if secondary data sources are used. You need to explain if copyright of research data (both existing sources of data used or created) is agreed or clarified, especially for collaborative research or if various sources of data are combined. Explain any plans in place for copyright clearance for data sharing (if possible) or alternative solutions.

Guidance on IPR

Indicate who within your research team will be responsible for data management, metadata production, dealing with quality issues and the final delivery of data for sharing or archiving.

Provide this information within the Staff Duties section in the Je-S form and where appropriate in the Justification of Resources. If several people will be responsible, state their roles and responsibilities in the relevant section of the Je-S form.

For collaborative projects explain the coordination of data management responsibilities across partners in your Data Management Plan.

Guidance on data management roles and responsibilities

ESRC’s guidance for peer reviewers (PDF) to assess data management plans is a valuable resource for researchers as it covers all the aspects of an ideal data management plan.

Briefly describe your plans for preparing and documenting data for sharing and archiving for future use explaining why these are appropriate. Provide information about where the collection will be made available and why. Specify what data and metadata standards will be used to ensure FAIR data and if you expected a dissemination embargo to be needed. Provide evidence that the data will be well documented during the research project to provide high-quality contextual information and/or structured metadata for secondary users.

ESRC research centres

Research centres often manage multiple datasets at different stages of the research process. Our data inventory template can be used to keep track of your centre’s data assets and to coordinate future data deposits.

We have developed specific data management and sharing guidance for centres and collaborative research.

If you would like us to visit your research centre to discuss data managing and deposit of your data with the UK Data Service in detail, get in touch.

We also run regular training workshops covering managing and sharing research data. Please visit our events page to see our upcoming training opportunities and previous workshop materials.