Evaluation of RDM Policies

CCBY Roy Lichtenstein - Magnifying glass (1963)

CCBY Roy Lichtenstein – Magnifying glass (1963)

Between July 2015 and June 2016, the LEARN Project partner team at the University of Vienna (UNIVIE) collected and analysed over 40 RDM policies from across Europe. As previously announced (in our first blog post), UNIVIE more closely examined 20 of these policies from selected universities and research organisations, based on format and content criteria. Using an analysis grid, eleven RDM policies from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, one from the Netherlands and four from Finland were evaluated. During this period some of the institutions improved, complemented or developed their extant policies. For this reason we had to adapt and keep our selection under constant review in order to keep it up-to-date.

The analysis did not present a uniform picture of RDM policies. The individual versions differ both in form and content. It was apparent that although research institutions often draw on one another’s work (sometimes sources were even explicitly referenced), a standard format for such documents does not exist.

Key findings:

  • The concrete objectives of the policies were not directly declared in every case, but the roles and responsibilities in research institutions were always stated (occasionally also clearly assigned to specific stakeholders). A position in regards to research funders was taken by most institutions, although, with a few exceptions, costs were only indirectly mentioned.
  • A clear definition of the term “research data” played a vital role in the policies, although definitions of other key terms (such as “research” or “data management plan”) were rarely supplied. “Open data” as an issue was a universal concern (although to varying degrees); “restricted data” or “closed data” were mentioned in connection with ethical and legal concerns, if at all. In turn ethical and legal aspects were almost always referred to, but with widely differing interpretations. Ownership of data was clearly formulated in about a quarter of the selected policies; it is worth noting, however, that although authorship is mentioned, very few delineations between copyright and rights to use were drawn.
  • On the topic of “storage and access” it was notable that data security and open access to research data were both strongly emphasised, while long-term archiving was only sporadically mentioned. The archival storage period for research data was addressed in about half of the examples analysed; the exact lengths of time involved, if declared, varied, but 10 years was the period most commonly cited. The explicit deletion of data was mentioned in only a very few examples, although this issue is best addressed by data management plans (DMP). A DMP was described in all examples (more thoroughly in some than in others) or even considered as a mandatory requirement. In several policies there is evidence that a template was used, or a DMP-guidance tool (such as that of DCC).
  • The topic of “support and training” was universally treated as a necessary component of RDM, and was mentioned in all policies. In contrast, the relevance of topics such as “educational data” and “cultural heritage” have not yet entered the consciousness of the research community, at least not sufficiently to feature in RDM policy documents.

For detailed information see the Evaluation Grid for RDM Policies in Europe:


Imola Dora Traub is LEARN Project Assistan at University of Vienna Library and Archive Services

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