Research data – defined as the material (in the broad sense of the term) which forms the basis for the research – gives rise to many legal and research ethical questions and issues. Some of these issues are discussed in other articles here at the Researcher Portal:
- Research that involves personal data
- Register-based research
- Experiments involving animals
- The research ethics committee system
A more basic question is, what requirements can be set for research data management when it comes to collection and/or provision of data, storage and processing of data in the context of the current research, as well as subsequent handling of data (deletion/destruction or continuing storage). These issues are of vital importance to ensure research integrity and thus represent an essential element of good scientific practice.
In recent years there has been increased focus on these issues in Denmark and internationally. In February 2014, Universities Denmark, Danish e-Infrastructure Co-operation (DeIC) and Denmark’s Electronic Research Library set up a “Steering Group for National Data Management”, which was given the task of drawing up a national strategy for research data management. This strategy was published on 30 January 2015, see National Strategy for Research Data Management 2015-2018.
In addition, a National Forum for Research Data Management has been established. The purpose of this forum is “to promote technical and research-related initiatives within research data management at universities, linking them in a national and international cooperation with a focus on:
- Cross-organisational knowledgesharing
- Cross-organisational projects aiming to facilitate and qualify work
- Cross-organisational infrastructures when demanded and sustainable”
Detailed information on the various initiatives and international developments can be found at DeIC’s website .
Policy on retention of research data
According to the Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2014) research institutions should have a policy for retention of research data.
The University of Copenhagen laid down a (very general) “policy on research data” on 1 July 2014. The policy stipulates, among other things, that the retention of research data which forms the basis of his or her research is the responsibility of the individual researcher, and that the retention period for research data is a minimum of 5 years, unless otherwise required by law.
- See also White Paper on dealing with research data – developing a roadmap (University of Copenhagen, SCIENCE, 2014)
Aarhus University has laid down rules on data management in the guidelines on responsible conduct of research at Aarhus University (2015). These guidelines stipulate among other things that
“Responsible handling and storage of research data contribute to transparent and credible research within all fields of inquiry
For research carried out at Aarhus University:
- As a general rule, all primary material and data derived from from research conducted at Aarhus
University must be stored at Aarhus University, which makes servers, archives etc. are available.
- All protocols, plans and strategies for experiments/studies, notes, laboratory books, data and primary
material must be stored for five years after the completion of the research project, and, unless this is
in conflict with other regulations or professional standards, and that there must be open access to
the material, unless this is conflict with other regulations.
- All primary research material and data derived from research conducted at Aarhus University belongs
primarily to Aarhus University and can only be removed or used outside of Aarhus University
subject to written agreement with a department head .
- Research data and other primary research material from Aarhus University must be disposed of in a
safe and secure manner with due regard for any ethical considerations.
Aarhus University is responsible for ensuring that rules are laid down for all fields of inquiry on the storage and handling of data.”
Rights to research data
There is often a need to provide the above-mentioned policies on retention of research data with rules governing the legal rights to the primary material and/or research data. In that way you can, among other things, anticipate the problems that may arise in research collaborations, including when the scientists leave the research projects ahead of time. In this case it may for example be appropriate to clarify to what extent the various researchers in the projects are allowed a copy of the primary material and data that have been collected, and to what extent they are allowed to continue working with them.
Some data management policies tentatively use wordings such as “all forms of research data will remain the property of the university” and the like. However, UBVA finds that such wording is unsuitable. The fact is that the legal handling of rights to research data is a very complicated matter. And the rights that might come into play arise from different legal rules with different legal effects.
UBVA has prepared recommendations on how data management policies are to regulate rights to primary material and research data. The recommendations end with a specific proposal for provisions that may be included in the policies.
Danish model agreements for research collaborations
Please see the article Agreements on research collaborations.
Public access to research data (open access, open data, open science, etc.)
According to the Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2014) Danish institutions should provide access to the stored primary material and data, except “when this is contrary to the contractual and/or legal obligations or applicable regulations, for example on ethics, confidentiality, or protection of privacy or intellectual property rights”. These exceptions indicate that this is a very complex area.
Please see the articles on Open Science and Open Access and Copyright Law.
Deposit of research data to the Danish National Archives
In some cases the Danish National Archives will receive research data from both private and public research projects. The rules are currently under review, so therefore please refer to the website of The Danish National Archives.