5
Defining Roles and Responsibilities

ASSIGNING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Periods of rapid technological change offer strong incentives as well as unique opportunities for examining current policies and instituting new policies to address changing circumstances. Every part of the research enterprise is being affected by the changes in how research is being planned, conducted, and used, and each has responsibilities for ensuring the integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of research data. However, shared responsibilities can create problems. When responsibility is shared, each group can assume that the other groups should be the ones taking action. As a speaker at one of the committee’s meetings memorably described the problem, “If two people are responsible for feeding a dog, that dog’s going to starve.”

The remainder of this chapter revisits the recommendations made in the three preceding chapters by briefly describing the roles and responsibilities of the major sectors of the research enterprise in ensuring the integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of research data. In that regard, it functions as a summary of the report’s recommendations, though the recommendations are resorted according to the groups responsible for each action (see Table 5-1). It also discusses some of the particular responsibilities incumbent on parts of the research enterprise to avoid inaction caused by an overly diffuse allocation of responsibilities.

RESEARCHERS

Researchers have particular obligations in each of the three areas discussed in this report. As data producers, providers, and users, they know best how to generate data of high quality, disseminate data to others so that the data are useful, and preserve the data for future uses. In some fields they may need to work in close association with data professionals. They might also carry out



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5 Defining Roles and Responsibilities ASSIGNING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES Periods of rapid technological change offer strong incentives as well as unique opportunities for examining current policies and instituting new poli - cies to address changing circumstances. Every part of the research enterprise is being affected by the changes in how research is being planned, conducted, and used, and each has responsibilities for ensuring the integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of research data. However, shared responsibilities can create problems. When responsibility is shared, each group can assume that the other groups should be the ones taking action. As a speaker at one of the committee’s meetings memorably described the problem, “If two people are responsible for feeding a dog, that dog’s going to starve.” The remainder of this chapter revisits the recommendations made in the three preceding chapters by briefly describing the roles and responsibilities of the major sectors of the research enterprise in ensuring the integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of research data. In that regard, it functions as a summary of the report’s recommendations, though the recommendations are resorted according to the groups responsible for each action (see Table 5-1). It also discusses some of the particular responsibilities incumbent on parts of the research enterprise to avoid inaction caused by an overly diffuse allocation of responsibilities. RESEARCHERS Researchers have particular obligations in each of the three areas discussed in this report. As data producers, providers, and users, they know best how to generate data of high quality, disseminate data to others so that the data are useful, and preserve the data for future uses. In some fields they may need to work in close association with data professionals. They might also carry out 

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TABLE 5-1 Responsibilities of Groups Within the Research Enterprise  Research Institutions and Research Research Professional Recommendation Researchers Libraries Sponsors Societies Journals Public Data Integrity ✓ Manage projects to ensure data integrity ✓ Receive appropriate training for data management ✓ ü ✓ ✓ ✓ Participate in development of professional standards for management of data ✓ ✓ ✓ Provide support for training in data management ✓ Recognize appropriateness of financial support for data professionals ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Help ensure that contributions of data professionals are recognized and rewarded Data Access and Sharing ✓ Make data and other information integral to reported results accessible in a timely manner ✓ Ascertain whether data are publicly accessible and, if not, whether restrictions are appropriate ✓ If data are not accessible, explain why publicly ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ If necessary, develop standards for data accessibility (with parties appropriate for field) ✓ ✓ ✓ Except where restrictions are justified, require that data be made available ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Promote sharing of data through public recognition of outstanding data-sharing efforts, funding, and publication policies ✓ Establish clear policies for management of and access to research data

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✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Ensure availability of data in short and long term Data Stewardship ✓ Include provisions for stewardship of data in data management plans ✓ Document, reference, and index data with long-term value ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Develop process to generate guidance for researchers about data retention ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Develop and implement plans with researchers to meet needs for data stewardship ✓ ✓ ✓ Develop incentives and tools for data stewardship ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Publicize and promote proper data stewardship ✓ Consider supporting data centers and archives, and stewardship tools 

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8 ENSURING THE INTEGRITY, ACCESSIBILITY, AND STEWARDSHIP OF DATA their responsibilities through informal groups or formal organizations created with the involvement of funding agencies or professional societies. In a period of rapid technological change, researchers can be challenged to master all of the information they need to fulfill their responsibilities toward data. Training in the responsible conduct of research that includes guidance on the management of data can clarify and emphasize researchers’ responsibilities (Chapter 2). Many research data have potential uses and users that may not be obvious from the perspective of a single research field. Courses, seminars, or Web-based modules in data management can list and describe these potential uses and users, providing researchers with a more comprehensive set of factors to consider in making decisions about data accessibility and stewardship. Researchers also need to be aware of the many considerations surrounding data when they are considering possible restrictions on data and the appropri - ateness of any such restrictions (Chapter 3). Restrictions may be necessary, yet most restrictions on the accessibility of data have costs for the research commu- nity. Because of these costs, researchers have a responsibility to provide compel- ling reasons for any limitations on the accessibility of data, which requires that they fully understand and are able to justify these limits. Finally, researchers are the ones best positioned to plan both how data will be made available and how they will be preserved and curated for long-term use (Chapter 4). When standards for data accessibility and stewardship do not exist in a field, researchers need to be involved in—and most likely will lead—the process of developing such standards. The integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of research data are too impor- tant to be secondary considerations or afterthoughts in the development of a research plan. Provisions for maintaining these three qualities of research data should be part of every research plan, whether a sponsor requires such provi - sions or not. RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS Research institutions, including colleges, universities, medical schools, and other nonprofit organizations, have a major influence on the policy environ - ment in which research is conducted. Their support—or lack of support—for data integrity, accessibility, and stewardship can have a major effect on the quality and usability of research data. Research institutions need to have clear written policies regarding data management and communicate these policies to researchers. Organizations such as the National Association of State Universi - ties and Land-Grant Colleges, the American Association of Universities, the Committee on Government Relations, the Committee on Institutional Coopera- tion, and others can help formulate and disseminate these policies. Research institutions need to support training in data management (Chap - ter 2). They should establish an expectation that researchers will undertake

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9 DEFINING ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES such training and provide the financial support for researchers to be able to do so. Research institutions and sponsors also facilitate the development of data professionals by providing career paths for these individuals, supporting their training, and recognizing and rewarding their contributions. Researchers have many incentives for maintaining the integrity of the data they generate. They have fewer incentives, in general, for making their data widely available, and fewer still to invest the time and resources needed to ensure the stewardship of data. Policy initiatives are therefore essential if research data are to achieve their maximum value. Research institutions have a special responsibility to be proactive in making research data accessible (Chapter 3). Research grants and contracts typically give research institutions ownership rights in research data, and so those insti - tutions have a particular interest in seeing that research data are available, that restrictions on the accessibility of research data are justified, and that proce - dures exist for responding to requests for research data. Both formal policies and informal expectations help to avoid conflicts over data accessibility. Research institutions also can and should play the leading role in steward - ship of its scholarship and knowledge resources (Chapter 4). RESEARCH SPONSORS Research sponsors, including government agencies, philanthropies, private companies, and other funders, also have an interest in all three of the qualities discussed in this report. But they have a particular responsibility toward data stewardship (Chapter 4). The infrastructure needed for data stewardship is much less developed than is the infrastructure for publishing research conclu - sions. Also, the long-term preservation of data in a usable form can be costly, and research data are so varied across fields that different systems are needed for different fields. Funders can maximize the value of the research they fund by also taking steps to support the stewardship of data. They need to work with researchers in the fields they sponsor to develop incentives for researchers to invest in data stewardship, and they need to consider support for the data centers and tools that facilitate stewardship. PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES AND JOURNALS Finally, professional societies and journals have important roles to play in all three of the areas explored in this report. They can help develop and dis - seminate guidelines for a research field and then help monitor and enforce com- pliance with those guidelines. Journals are directly responsible for the long-term preservation of the articles they publish, and an increasing number of journals are assuming responsibility for maintaining the data on which research conclu -

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20 ENSURING THE INTEGRITY, ACCESSIBILITY, AND STEWARDSHIP OF DATA sions are based. And journals and professional societies can help ensure that the contributions of data professionals are recognized and rewarded through such mechanisms as prizes, publication, and recognition at disciplinary meetings. In general, more dialog is needed among researchers, research institutions, and research sponsors about the need for education and training, how spon - sors should support the stewardship of data, the role of data professionals, and how institutions and sponsors should respond to reasonable and unreasonable requests for research data. Professional societies and journals can catalyze these dialogues within research fields, providing a base of knowledge that can then be applied across disciplines. CONCLUSION During periods of rapid change, an emphasis on specific policies may be less useful than reiterating and reemphasizing the fundamental principles that should guide action. Thus, we close by restating three general principles that have motivated our recommendations in the areas of data integrity, accessibility, and stewardship. Data Integrity Principle: Ensuring the integrity of research data is essential for advancing scientific, engineering, and medical knowledge and for maintaining public trust in the research enterprise. Although other stakeholders in the research enterprise have important roles to play, researchers themselves are ultimately responsible for ensuring the integrity of research data. Data Access and Sharing Principle: Research data, methods, and other infor- mation integral to publicly reported results should be publicly accessible. Data Stewardship Principle: Research data should be retained to serve future uses. Data that may have long-term value should be documented, ref- erenced, and indexed so that others can find and use them accurately and appropriately.