Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

U-M, Sloan Foundation to enhance open access to research data

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research at U-M's Institute for Social Research are joining forces to encourage open access to research data and closer links between publications and the data on which they are based.

A grant from the foundation will allow ICPSR to work with editors of peer-reviewed social science journals, leaders of data repositories and research funding agencies to foster new standards in research transparency, data citation and sustainable funding models for open access to data.

"Professional associations, journals, data repositories and funding agencies must work together to make the entire scientific venture more transparent and to encourage broader access to research data," said ICPSR Director George Alter. "The first step is to give scientists who produce important research data the recognition they deserve."

A primary aim of the project is to promote the effective, consistent and standardized citation of research data. In the past, journals have been inconsistent in citing data, often providing incomplete information about how and by whom data were created. Clear standards of citation will ensure that research data are recognized as significant contributions, and that data producers are given proper credit.

Such standards also will enhance the transparency of scientific research. To reproduce the findings reported in journal articles, data need to be available along with all of the information necessary for replication. Some disciplines already have implemented such transparency requirements, but the project will encourage journals to adopt common guidelines and procedures.

In light of more stringent demands for data sharing among public and private research funding agencies, the Sloan/ICPSR project also will encourage collaboration across scientific domains on sustainable funding models for data repositories. For example, the National Science Foundation now requires a data management plan for all funded research projects, including specifics on how data will be stored and shared. Bringing leaders of data archives and representatives from research funding agencies together to discuss ways to support this and similar mandates will benefit the wider research community.

Daniel Goroff, program director at the Sloan Foundation, said the project illustrates how Sloan's dedication to the advancement of scientific, technological and economic research also entails support for infrastructure that can enhance the scholarly communication and impact of such research.

"Effective data citation and data sharing practices are good for science and good for scientists," he said. "Everyone wants research results that are reliable, reusable and reproducible. ICPSR's 50 years of experience curating data like this for the social sciences can serve as an inspiration for all disciplines."