DMP Rights & Responsibilities

A consultation on Open Data was conducted in the United Kingdom in February 2012 providing valuable insight into governing principles for open data.  In particular, a series of rights and responsibilities regarding researchers, public and private funders, and  the public was identified in the study’s final report.  Emerging from this dialogue was a prominent policy role for data management plans (DMPs) to record agreements among stakeholders and to state clearly their rights and responsibilities associated with the data.  Viewing data management plans this way is closely associated to the position taken in the previous entry to this blog, The Value of Data Management Plans.  In this context, DMPs serve as a document of relationships and agreements.

Page 35 of this report contains a table summarizing rights and responsibilities among stakeholders.  Four stand out about DMPs:

  1. Researchers have a responsibility to “develop data management plans;”
  2. Funders have a right to expect researchers to prepare and implement data management plans;
  3. Funders have a responsibility to “enforce and publish data management policies and practices,” including DMPs; and
  4. The public has a right to know about research data in the public interest, which can be partially achieved through publishing DMPs.

The discussion in this report addresses several ways in which DMPs interplay across stakeholders’ interests.  For example, a concern among some researchers about “vexatious requests for data [p. 38]” was seen as being mediated through developing and publishing DMPs.  Furthermore, DMPs were seen as a method of communicating a timeframe for exclusive use of data by researchers prior to it being shared.  The expectation of funders to publish DMPs was seen as a transparency factor, keeping everyone informed of the agreements around the rights and responsibilities of a project’s data.

Other stakeholders can be seen also to have rights and responsibilities communicated in DMPs.  For example, a university has a right to know the demands on research data management infrastructure that the data across all locally based projects cumulatively have on a campus’ resources, including data curation services, storage, network capacity, and computational power.   On the flip side, a campus has the responsibility to support data management infrastructure that will facilitate high quality research, something to be gleaned from its researchers’ DMPs.

As Canadian institutions look to introduce DMPs as a policy tool, a wider discussion should take into account the relationships to be expressed in such plans.  We should expect to get full value out of this tool.