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EPSRC policy stipulations

The EPSRC is changing its funding requirements for management of and access to EPSRC-funded research data. From 1 May 2015, the University and its researchers are required to comply with EPSRC expectations, and EPSRC will monitor compliance.

The following guidance aims to help you identify and satisfy those expectations.

1. Be aware of RCUK principles and EPSRC expectations

Researchers and research students are expected to be aware of RCUK data principles, and EPSRC expectations (published April 2011) and clarifications (published October 2014).

2. Provide a data statement in published research papers

To satisfy EPSRC expectations, "Published research papers should include a short statement describing how and on what terms any supporting research data may be accessed."+

This requirement "applies to all papers which acknowledge EPSRC funding with a publication date after 1st May 2015" and is consistent with RCUK policy on Open Access.

EPSRC also states:
"We acknowledge that not all research papers are supported by research data, and will therefore rely on researchers making informed judgements about when it is appropriate to include such a statement."

"If compelling legal or ethical reasons exist to protect access to the data these should be noted in the statement included in the published research paper. A simple direction to interested parties to 'contact the author' would not normally be considered sufficient."

2.1 Writing a data statement

Data statements should include a persistent URL such as a digital object identifier (DOI) which links directly to the data or to supporting documentation that describes the data in detail, how it may be accessed and any constraints that may apply.

The exact format and placement of a data statement may be influenced by a publication’s house style.

Example data access statements, including statements on openly available data, data around which there are commercial constraints, and non-digital data, are available in the Citing data section.

DOIs are provided for datasets by many data centres and repositories. For guidance on where to deposit data, see the Sharing data page.

Licensing your data can help clarify the terms of its use. The DCC guide on How to License Research Data offers guidance.
EPSRC will be auditing papers which acknowledge their funding to check that they include a data access statement.

2.2 Citing data in published research e.g. using a Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
You should reference the data in your paper and provide an appropriate citation using a persistent URL such as a digital object identifier (DOI). The cited data should be accessible online no later than the date of first online publication of the article (to satisfy requirements described under section 6.1 of this guidance).

The exact format and placement of a data citation may be influenced by a publication’s house style.
To illustrate, you could provide a citation to your data using the following elements.

  • Creator (Publication Year): Title. Publisher. Identifier

In this example, the ‘identifier’ is a digital object identifier (DOI):

  • Denhard, Michael (2009): dphase_mpeps: MicroPEPS LAF‐Ensemble run by DWD for the MAP D‐PHASE project. World Data Center for Climate. http://dx.doi.org/10.1594/WDCC/dphase_mpeps

Where appropriate, it may also be desirable to include information about two optional elements, Version and Resource Type. If so, the recommended form is as follows:

Creator (Publication Year): Title. Version. Publisher. Resource Type. Identifier

3. Make data as freely and openly available as possible

EPSRC states: "[…]EPSRC‐funded research data should be made freely and openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner. […] The expectation is that data relied on in published research findings will, by default, be available for scrutiny by others. […] It is accepted that ethical or legal constraints may apply."

EPSRC qualifies this expectation (emphasis has been added to highlight categories):

  • "Personal information should not be put into the public domain without the explicit consent of the person to which it relates."
  • "Sensitive information should not be placed in the public domain. Sensitive information is information the release of which would compromise unprotected intellectual property or which, in the judgement of the security services, would result in unacceptable risk to the citizens of the UK or its allies."
  • "A delay in the publication of research findings and access to supporting research data is acceptable if necessary to protect intellectual property that would otherwise be compromised."
  • "[…] 'commercially confidential’ data, in which a business organisation has a legitimate interest, might be made available to others subject to a suitable legally enforceable non‐disclosure agreement."
  • "It is accepted that there may be cases in which it may not be possible or cost effective to preserve research data. This will depend on the type and scale of the data, their role in validating published results, and their predicted long term usefulness for further research. For example, in the case of simulated data or outputs of models, it may be more effective to preserve the means to recreate the data by preserving the generating code and environment, rather than preserving the data themselves. Provided that the ability to validate published research findings is not fundamentally compromised, a deliberate decision to dispose of research data at an appropriate time is acceptable in these cases."

EPSRC does not provide a repository and does not specify where data should be deposited. For information on where to deposit data, see the Sharing data page.

4. Create a data management plan

EPSRC states: "EPSRC does not require DMPs with research grant applications, but our research data principles include that '…project specific data management policies and plans… …should exist for all data'"
Many of EPSRC's expectations can be addressed during the creation of your DMP. Since EPSRC does not specify a DMP template or format, use The University of Manchester’s bespoke Data Management Planning Tool to complete the 'Generic Template' which offers guidance and examples of text that you can adapt.
Further reading:

DCC offers links to example DMPs for a variety of funders.

5. Facilitate sharing of non-digital research data

EPSRC states: "Publicly‐funded research data that is not generated in digital format will be stored in a manner to facilitate it being shared in the event of a valid request for access to the data being received (this expectation could be satisfied by implementing a policy to convert and store such data in digital format in a timely manner)"

This does not mean that all non-digital data must be digitised, but it is expected that non-digital data should be:

  • discoverable e.g. via metadata and supporting documentation (see section 6 of this guidance for more information)
  • available for consultation where possible. "EPSRC considers it reasonable that those requesting access to data be responsible for […] travelling to the place where the data is held if it is in physical form and it is impractical to digitise it."

The University of Manchester Library provides digitisation services and encourages requests for digitisation projects to support research. Please email uml-digitisation-req@listserv.manchester.ac.uk in the first instance, and draw attention to any issues that might apply e.g. requirements relating to quality control, or to personal, sensitive or confidential information.

6. Publish metadata to enable discovery and re-use of your data

6.1 EPSRC expectations

EPSRC states: “[…] metadata must be sufficient to allow others to understand what research data exists, why, when and how it was generated, and how to access it. Where the research data referred to in the metadata is a digital object it is expected that the metadata will include use of a robust digital object identifier”.

The emphasis in this expectation is on publishing ‘metadata for discovery’ (i.e. metadata which allows relevant data to be found).
EPSRC expects that metadata will be published “normally within 12 months of the data being generated”. Since ‘date of generation’ can give rise to uncertainties, EPSRC offers guidance:

  • For data that “directly supports research findings published after 1st May 2015 […] cited data/supporting documentation is expected to be accessible online no later than the date of first online publication of the article”.
  • For “retained research data with a clear ‘date of generation’ being on/after 1st May 2015, and where there is no intention to publish findings which rely on that data, metadata for discovery should be exposed online within one year of the 'date of generation'.
  • “If retained research data has no clear ‘date of generation’ and the relevant EPSRC grant ends on/after 1st May 2015, and if there is no intention to publish findings which rely on that data […]the metadata for discovery should be exposed online no later than one year after the end date of the EPSRC grant.”

You can satisfy this expectation by depositing your data and/or metadata and documentation (as appropriate), in a suitable data repository. For information on where to deposit data see the Sharing data page.

EPSRC does not specify a metadata standard. Guidance on disciplinary metadata is available from the DCC (Digital Curation Centre).

6.2 Describing your data
Metadata means structured information about data, and is part of broader contextual information or ‘documentation’ that accompanies data to ensure it can be found and understood over time. To illustrate, a data repository might ask you to supply descriptive metadata about your work (title, creator, dates associated with the data, description, geographical location, etc.) Metadata serves several functions; descriptive metadata is primarily used to make data more discoverable.

Creating comprehensive data documentation is easiest when begun at the onset of a project and continued throughout the research.

Further reading:

7. Specify reason and conditions for accessing restricted data in published metadata

EPSRC states: “Where access to the data is restricted the published metadata should also give the reason and summarise the conditions which must be satisfied for access to be granted. For example ‘commercially confidential’ data, in which a business organisation has a legitimate interest, might be made available to others subject to a suitable legally enforceable non‐disclosure agreement.”

For examples of data restrictions that are acceptable to EPSRC see section 3 of this guidance.

For context, EPSRC highlights two of its principles as having particular importance:

  • Publicly funded research data should be made freely and openly available with as few restrictions as possible in a timely and responsible manner
  • The research process should not be damaged by inappropriate release of data

8. Securely preserve data for a minimum of 10 years

8.1 Preservation period
EPSRC states that research data should be: “securely preserved for a minimum of 10‐years from the date that any researcher ‘privileged access’ period expires or, if others have accessed the data, from last date on which access to the data was requested by a third party”

8.2 Suitable storage
EPSRC states: “all reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that publicly‐funded data is not held in any jurisdiction where the available legal safeguards provide lower levels of protection than are available in the UK.”
The wording ‘legal safeguards’ “refers to legislation governing access to, or otherwise affecting, the security of information held in digital or electronic form.”
For digital data, this may rule out use of cloud services that store data on servers outside the UK. For further advice:

For non-digital data see also section 5 of this guidance.

8.3 Do you have to preserve all research data?
EPSRC states: “It is accepted that there may be cases in which it may not be possible or cost effective to preserve research data. This will depend on the type and scale of the data, their role in validating published results, and their predicted long term usefulness for further research. For example, in the case of simulated data or outputs of models, it may be more effective to preserve the means to recreate the data by preserving the generating code and environment, rather than preserving the data themselves. Provided that the ability to validate published research findings is not fundamentally compromised, a deliberate decision to dispose of research data at an appropriate time is acceptable in these cases.”

Further reading:

  • DCC (2014) Five steps to decide what data to keep: a checklist for appraising research data. Edinburgh: Digital Curation Centre.

9. Claim eligible costs associated with research data management

EPSRC states: "Provided two simple rules are adhered to, all costs associated with research data management are eligible expenditure of research grant funds. The rules are:

1. no expenditure can be ‘double funded’ (a service that is centrally supported by the indirect costs paid on all research grants cannot then also be included as a direct cost on a grant)
2. all directly incurred expenditure of a grant must be incurred before the end date of the grant."
Costs for research data management can be included in a research proposal before it is submitted to EPSRC. Consider whether:

  • the project plan reflects the time and resource needed for data management activity;
  • the project is likely to need more resource for data management than may be provided centrally by your institution, and whether this has been budgeted for in the proposal.

"Research organisations will ensure adequate resources are provided to support the curation of publicly-funded research data; these resources will be allocated from within their existing public funding streams, whether received from Research Councils as direct or indirect support for specific projects or from higher education Funding Councils as block grants."

The UK Data Service has developed a data management costing tool and checklist that can help you formulate data management costs e.g. to support a funding application or for inclusion in a data management plan.

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