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Open data

Read through our guide on making research data open and accessible.

What is research data?

The University of Surrey considers research data to be any material collected, observed, processed, or created for the purpose of analysis and on which research findings and outputs are based. This includes data and documentation which is commonly accepted in the scholarly community as necessary for validation or replication of research findings. Research data may be in digital or non-digital formats. This could include:

  • Audio, video, and images or photographs
  • Text documents and spreadsheets
  • Code, scripts, algorithms, models, and software
  • Protocols and methodologies
  • Specimens and samples
  • Collections of digital objects
  • Lab notebooks, field notes, and diaries
  • Questionnaires and codebooks
  • Interview schedules and transcripts
  • Test responses
  • Slides, artefacts, specimens, samples
  • Databases.

Why share your data?

Sharing data that underpins conclusions is at the heart of academic inquiry. Data sharing for verification and reuse can catch errors earlier, foster innovative uses of data, and push research forward faster and more transparently to the benefit of the field. Beyond academia, data can be used to the benefit of policy makers, entrepreneurs, and the public. There’s also evidence that sharing data leads to more citations, greater visibility of your work, and potential collaborations and opportunities. For more check out these five selfish reasons to work reproducibly.

Of course, not all data is suitable to share openly. Instead, data can be shared with a range of appropriate restrictions. Be sure you have consent or permission from your participants, collaborators, partners, or supervisor before sharing any data. Once you have identified which data is shareable, you should apply appropriate safeguards. If your data cannot be shared, but has long-term value, then it should be preserved.

Data access statements

A data access statement (also referred to as 'data availability' statement), is a short statement added to a research paper, to inform the reader:

  • Whether there is research data associated with the paper
  • Whether the research data associated with the paper is available, and if this is the case, where and under what terms it can be accessed
  • Whether the research data associated with the paper is restricted, and if this is the case, the reasons why. 

The University's Research Data Management policy expects you to include a data access statement in your publications. This is in line with requirements set by some research funders, including UKRI (UKRI OA policy, Appendix 1): "in-scope research articles to include a Data Access Statement, even where there are no data associated with the article or the data are inaccessible".

Many journals support the inclusion of data access statements, and provide relevant guidance. See examples from Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and PLOS.   

You can also use examples provided below, if a journal does not provide its own guidance. 

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