On this page you can find out about the benefits of sharing data, guidance on sharing data with other researchers, justifiable reasons why you might not be able to your data openly, ways to restrict access or embargo your data, information on choosing a licence for your data, and data sharing resources.
Watch our 40-second video on the benefits of sharing data or click on the box below the video to read about the benefits of sharing data. You can skip to sections on this page:
Benefits of sharing your data include:
Historically data have been shared 'upon request from the author' however, this requires long-term maintenance of datasets and becomes problematic when the corresponding author moves institution or when datasets are very large. Now it is possible to share data in a reliable and secure way through the use of dedicated research data archives.
Data archive administrators manage access to your datasets on your behalf. You have complete control over the terms of access to your datasets and there are a number of options to control access to the datasets:
There are several justifications for restricting access to data to researchers external to your project collaborators. Use the box below to find out more about scenarios where you might not be able to share data openly and possible solutions for data sharing with restricted access. On the 'Sharing data resources' tab you will find a list of resources that provide additional information about sharing data, such as guides to anonymisation and relevant University policies.
For guidance on sharing your data with collaborators you can find guidance on our 'working with data' webpages.
Considerations before sharing data
Personal data must be managed in accordance with EU and UK data protection legislation. You can only share personal data gathered for research purposes with other researchers if you have informed consent for data sharing. Your information sheets and consent form should tell study participants how their data will be shared, and with whom. The UK Data Service has guidance on drafting of consent forms and information sheets.
Options for data sharing
In addition to identifiable personal data, examples of when data might be too sensitive to share openly are:
Options for sharing data
You must not share data if you do not have the right to do so, for example:
Options for sharing
You must not share your data if this would be in breach of your funding contract or collaboration agreement. This situation is most likely to arise if you are working with an industrial collaborator.
Options for sharing
While the University and many funding bodies require research data to be shared as openly as possible, there is no expectation that this sharing should start immediately. It would be unusual to share any data during the active phase of a project, before findings have been published.
In practice, you are permitted a privileged period of exclusive access, allowing you time to analyse and publish the results of the data you have created or collected. During a project, and assuming no other constraints apply, you would only need to provide access to the subset of data supporting the findings you have published so far. This would allow you time to continue to analyse and publish from your wider dataset. However, funder data policies differ on how long this period of exclusive use should last – you may be required to publish all final datasets within a defined period from either the end of project funding or the date of data collection.
Most funders will not allow you to stipulate an embargo that is longer than 24 months. You can contact us for guidance on embargo periods for different funders.
You may be able to delay sharing your data beyond the privileged period, or beyond the publication date of your findings, by means of an embargo. All embargoes must be justified. The most usual reasons given are as follows:
Whether these justifications are acceptable depends on your funder and your publisher. Many project funders encourage the protection of intellectual property rights arising from the research they are funding, but you should check your funder's policy to see whether these are acceptable grounds for an embargo. Not all publishers will allow data to be embargoed beyond the date of publication – PLOS's data policy is one example – so you should check your journal's requirements to avoid manuscript rejections.
When publishing your data openly you will need to consider what licence to use. The data archive may ask you to select from a number of options if you want to make your data openly available (i.e. without access restrictions).
These are the most commonly used licences for research data. If you have a question about the terms of a licence associated with data that you are using please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Under this licence you can use and share the data as they stand but you are not allowed to alter or transform them in any way. As with the case of 'all rights reserved', you are unlikely to be able to do much more than verify results that have already been derived from the data.
Examples: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs (CC-BY-ND), Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Some licences forbid data being used for commercial purposes. This is not usually an issue in academic research, but you might come across circumstances where you would not be able to use the data. Examples include undertaking consultancy for an external organisation, applying for a patent, or commercialising your research in some other way.
Examples: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC-BY-NC), Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC-BY-NC-ND)
A licence with a Share-Alike or Copyleft requirement allows you to make adaptations to the data, and combine them with data from different sources, but if you share the resulting dataset you must apply the same licence to it.
Some licences are stricter than others about their Share-Alike or Copyleft conditions. Most allow you to use a later version of the same licence. Some allow you to use a functionally equivalent licence, or have explicit compatibility clauses. If you have any questions or concerns about licensing data that have been provided with a Share-Alike or copyleft licence please contact us.
Examples: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA), Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC-BY-NC-SA).
Most licences require you to acknowledge that you have used the resource in question, and many require an explicit acknowledgement of the originator or rights holder. In addition to the licence requirements, you are also expected to acknowledge in your research outputs any third party data underlying your results, preferably in the form of a data citation.
Examples: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) and all other examples given above that include -BY-.
Some licences have terms that explicitly prevent you from locking down the copies or derivations of the data that you share with others.
Examples: Public Domain Mark (PD), Public Domain Dedication (CC0)
You may receive a request for access to your research data or for information about your research from outside the expected channels. Various pieces of legislation govern whether you are obliged to supply the requested information, and within what timeframe. You should therefore read such requests carefully and, if appropriate, forward them to the appropriate specialist team within the University, which will be able to advise you on how to proceed.
If the request is for personal information, or if it specifically mentions the Data Protection Act or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you should refer the request to the Data Protection Team. Requests made under the Data Protection Act should normally be from the person to whom the information relates.
If the request is for environmental information, the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) may apply. Otherwise, the request may fall under the definition of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request; see the University guidance on identifying Freedom of Information requests. Note in particular that the request need not mention the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations in order for the respective legislation to apply. Unless you are sure the request is not a valid FOI or EIR request, refer it immediately to the Freedom of Information Officer; the urgency comes from the 20 working day legal deadline to respond to requests.