Arja Kuula and Jarkko Päivärinta

Research Funders Important in Promoting Open Access

Over the last few years, research funders have become more active in promoting open access to research data. Their policies and guidelines can have a big influence on data sharing and access to data. These days many research funders issue recommendations or requirements which aim to ensure that the data generated with their funding remain available for reuse. Even if the content of the requirements and their phrasing vary, the message from funders is clear: when making data management plans, researchers must pay attention to factors which will facilitate the reuse of data after the original research has been completed.

Academy example followed in Finland

Since 2008, the Academy of Finland has requested that grant applications include a data management plan. The plan should specify how the data produced by the research project will be used and stored and how the data can subsequently be used. The Academy also recommends FIN-CLARIN and FSD archival services.

Several Finnish foundations which provide research funding have followed the example set by the Academy. For instance, Kone Foundation recommends that data collected in research projects funded by it be archived for future use. Terms of contract of the Finnish Work Environment Fund say that project outputs will be public apart from outputs for which the grant holder is seeking industrial property protection. The Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies requires that grant applications contain a data management plan and that grant holders deposit their data at the Finnish Social Science Data Archive.

Various means available

In addition to recommendations, research funders have other means at their disposal for promoting open access. Funders can set it as a definite requirement that research data generated with their funding be openly available for reuse. Or they can take into account in their funding decisions whether applicants have provided access to data produced in their previous research. Another option is to allocate some part of funding to preparing and processing data for reuse.

In countries with a longer tradition of open access to data, research funders have stricter requirements. The Economic and Social Research Council, which is the main funder for social sciences in the UK, will withhold the final payment of a grant if data have not been offered for archiving to the required standard within 3 months of the end of the grant period. There has been a national social science data archive in the UK since 1967. As the services of the UK Data Archive have developed and improved over the years, the ESRC data policy has consequently grown stricter.

Even in Finland, research funders could tighten their data policies and request open access to data. Data infrastructure will take a long step forward in 2013, when the new user interface of the FSD will allow browsing and downloading data online.

Merits and citations crucial

It is unlikely that researchers would object to open access to science and sensible use of public funding but recommendations and requirements set by research funders alone are not enough to motivate them. What matters are citations and academic merits. A new template for a researcher’s curriculum vitae, prepared by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK), Finnish universities and the Academy of Finland, is a step in the right direction. The new CV model includes merits related to the production and distribution of research data. So from 2013 onwards, archiving data for the use of the scientific community will be regarded as an academic merit in Finland.

It is also worthwhile to remember that archiving data tends to increase the number of citations. According to study findings, articles where the supporting data have been archived for further scientific use receive more citations than other corresponding articles. Good quality data may be used – and cited – for a long time to come.


  • Piwowar HA, Day RS, Fridsma DB (2007) Sharing Detailed Research Data Is Associated with Increased Citation Rate. PLoS ONE 2(3): e308. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000308
  • Gleditsch. Nils & Metelits, Claire & Strand, Håvard (2003) Posting Your Data: Will You Be Scooped or Will You Be Famous? International Studies Perspectives 4(1), 89-97.