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
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.
Data availability statements should include:
1. Terms of access (if any).
2. Persistent identifier (e.g. DOI) linking to data in a repository; or where the data can be found (e.g. a third party).
3. If the data is restricted, a statement justifying why
4. If there is no data or all the data required to verify the findings appears within the publication, then the statement can simply say that there is no data or that the data appears within the publication.
The data underlying this article are available in [repository name, e.g. the xxxx Repository], at https://dx.doi.org/[doi, or give [URL]
The data underlying this article were derived from sources in the public domain: [list sources, including URLs]
- This publication is supported by multiple datasets that are openly available at locations referenced in this paper.
If the data is already included in the paper:
The data underlying this article are available in the article / in the online supplementary material.
- The data underlying this article are subject to an embargo of [period of embargo of X months from the publication date of the article] to allow for commercialisation of the results. Once the embargo expires the data will be available [give details of availability, e.g. in a repository plus embargoed link; upon reasonable request, etc.]
- The data underlying this article cannot be shared publicly due to [briefly describe why the data cannot be shared, e.g. for the privacy of individuals that participated in the study]
- The data underlying this article were provided by [third party] under licence / by permission. Data will be shared on request to the corresponding author with permission of [third party].
No data were created, collected or analysed in this study.
- Data Sharing - a UKRN animated primer
- Top Ten Tips for Doing Open Science
- Qualitative Data Archive’s Sharing Qualitative Data module
- Opening up and Sharing Data from Qualitative Research: A Primer
- Making data meaningful: guidelines for good quality open data
- Data sharing practices and data availability upon request differ across scientific disciplines
- The Qualitative Transparency Deliberations: Insights and Implications
- Qualitative Data Sharing: Participant Understanding, Motivation, and Consent.