Text: Annaleena Okuloff

Open Access to Research Soon Self-evident

Largest funders already require open access

The Academy of Finland requires providing access to research data in the projects it funds. The Academy urges researchers to use national or international archives or archiving services relevant to their discipline, such as the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD).

The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes) calls for the recipient of funding to ensure that the background data related to the project as well as the research data created in the project can be used as efficiently as possible in the future.

The Finnish Work Environment Fund requires providing access to research data in the projects it funds unless separately agreed otherwise. The fund recommends archiving data at the FSD.

Horizon 2020, the European Commission's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Access must be provided to research data produced with the help of the funding so that other researchers can reuse the data and verify the findings. If access cannot be provided, justifying this is required.

Further information: H2020 Programme: Guidelines on FAIR Data Management in Horizon 2020 (pdf)

Publishers' demands for open access increasingly frequent

Publishers' views on open access vary significantly depending on both the discipline and the publishers themselves. An increasing number of journals only accept articles for publication if the research data forming the basis of the findings are openly accessible to other researchers after the article has been published. The articles must also include information on where the data are available.

Publishers recommend that access to the data be provided at an appropriate data archive. In some cases, however, the data may also be archived alongside the article itself as supplementary information. Data collected by someone else must be appropriately cited if used.

At least for the time being, publishers make exceptions to their data policies in case access to the research data cannot be provided due to, for instance, legal or copyright-related reasons, as long as the reason is well justified. Even in such cases, the authors must usually be prepared to hand over their data so that their findings can be verified if necessary.

Biggest change likely to occur in clinical research

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has made a notable initiative on open access to data. The approval of ICMJE's proposal would mean that, in the future, its member journals would only accept articles on clinical studies for publication if the authors provide access to the research data underlying the findings. To read more on the reasons behind ICMJE's proposal, please see the editorial of this issue.

In practice, ICMJE's requirement will only cover the background data of research publications, not entire datasets. Additionally, the requirement will only cover studies for which data collection has been initiated half a year after the proposal's approval at the earliest. This is because anonymising research data is not always possible in a manner that allows the data to remain completely usable.

Further information: ICMJE: Sharing Clinical Trial Data: A Proposal From the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (pdf)

Open access in international communities

WHO:The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the principle of sharing research data important and supports it whenever possible. The WHO is, in fact, actively involved in projects aimed at sharing research data related to health sciences.

Regulatory and Ethics Working Group, Global Alliance for Genomics & Health: The working group has published the International Code of Conduct for Genomic and Health-Related Data Sharing. The purpose of the Code is to promote the sharing of genomic and health-related data by providing a principled and practical framework for the sharing of research data.

Creative Commons -license