Institutional Data Management Strategy [DRAFT]

October 25, 2022

Introduction 

In March 2021, Canada’s federal granting agencies — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) — launched the Tri-Agency Research Data Management (RDM) Policy [1]. The policy includes requirements related to institutional research data management (RDM) strategies, data management plans (DMPs), and data deposit. York University recognizes the important roles that data management plans and data deposit options play in supporting researchers with their efforts to incorporate research data management into their research practice at all stages of the research project lifecycle. 

What is research data management and how does it support the work of researchers? 

Research Data Management (RDM) refers to the processes applied throughout the lifecycle of a research project to guide the collection, documentation, storage, sharing, and preservation of research data, and allows researchers to find and access data. [2] 

Engagement with research data management results in a number of benefits such as: 

  • The enhancement of research data sharing and collaboration across geographic and disciplinary boundaries 
  • An improved set of means to make research more accessible to the general public   
  • The innovative re-use of preserved data sets 
  • The increased impact and global visibility of research 
  • The provision of important resources for education and training 
  • An increase in the transparency of research methods  
  • A reduction in research duplication [3, 4] 

Aligning with University Plans, Policies, and Guidelines  

The York University Academic Plan (UAP) articulates a Knowledge for the Future priority, under which a defined outcome is to “expanding the influence of our work through broadening and deepening our external partnerships and engagement in the generation and sharing of knowledge and creative works.” This institutional research data management strategy supports the advancement of the UAP priority. 

The following internal institutional policies and guidelines intersect with and inform this institutional strategy:

Guiding Principles 

As a publicly funded institution, York University is committed to ensuring the greatest possible scholarly and public access to the scholarship and creative works produced by the University community. Guided by the principles of digital social justice, diversity, interdisciplinarity, accessibility, responsibility to the public, and respect for communal knowledge, York proposes an approach that integrates research data management into a wider framework of Open Scholarship. Understanding the knowledge creation, curation, and circulation undertaken by academics as a public good and responsibility, Open Scholarship calls upon researchers to render their research processes and practices transparent, makes every effort to ensure the safeguarding, sustainability and survival of marginalized and silenced lineages of knowledge, and strives to provide a global community with access to not only what academics create and make public, but also the digital tools by which that material first comes into being and is then circulated.  

York University is committed to disseminating the research performed at the University in ways that make it widely accessible, while protecting the intellectual property rights of its authors and national security and interests where relevant. This strategy acknowledges:  

  • the need to promote the responsible stewardship of research data in keeping with global trends, national initiatives and institutional policies and priorities;  
  • that changes in technology offer opportunities for new forms of both creation and dissemination of scholarship;  
  • that research data management offers opportunities for York to fulfill its mission of creating and preserving knowledge in a way that opens disciplinary boundaries and facilitates sharing knowledge more freely with the world while increasing visibility and access to research conducted at the University; and  
  • the requirement of the University to comply with the Tri-Agency Policy on Research Data Management

The University values and protects the academic freedom of its researchers. It is not the function of this strategy to alter the rights or privileges of individuals defined by collective agreements.

Scope  

This strategy applies to all researchers working in different disciplines across the University and considers the unique needs of students, staff, and faculty. The first phase of the strategy will concentrate on identifying existing supports and additional collaborative opportunities, supports, and tools necessary for Tri-Agency-funded researchers at York to adopt responsible data management practices.  

Oversight and Review 

The York University Open Access Open Data Steering Committee (OAODSC), co-led by the Libraries and the office of the VP Research and Innovation, brings together key campus stakeholders to coordinate campus-wide education on data management particularly in light of Tri-Agency Open Access Policy requirements and the Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management. It is tasked with articulating a framework and coordinated service models that support faculty with these requirements. It also creates a wider forum for discussion and consideration on changes to the system of scholarship, sustainability of current economic models of scholarship, access to publicly funded research, issues surrounding authors rights in the digital age, and new scholarly distribution systems and other connected open movements.  

The OAODSC led the discussion and development process for the York University Institutional RDM Strategy. The committee engaged in extensive consultation with researchers, administrative units, and faculty councils to draft and review this strategy document. The OAODSC will continue to work with university stakeholders and broader organizations to review, update and maintain this strategy. 

Stakeholders

Supporting the responsible stewardship of data at York University requires continued collaboration between different units at York University.

Institutional Support

York University leverages internal, regional, national and interdisciplinary supports to make available Research Data Managements services to its researchers.

At a national level, The Digital Research Alliance of Canada coordinates the national level supports of advanced research computing (ARC), research data management (RDM), and research software (RS). In terms of RDM, a series of services have been developed and continuously optimized to meet institutions and researchers’ needs, including 

  • FRDR, a national platform for research data discovery, sharing and preservation 
  • DMP Assistant, an online bilingual data management planning tool 
  • Learning & training resources on RDM  
  • Network of experts, a community of practice across domains working together to provide resources, expert advice, and practical help on RDM    

York University researchers are active members of the Alliance and avail themselves of the services offered by these national initiatives.  

Echoing the collaborative approach of RDM at the national level, York University leverages a close partnership between multiple research support units responding to our researchers’ needs and aspirations of being competent and efficient as research data collectors, users, and stewards. These research support units will continue to further deepen and formalize their services and supports. 

York University Libraries currently supports faculty and student researchers’ research data management needs through its data management planning consultation service, its data deposit service, and the provision of an institutional repository for research data, Borealis. York University is a partner member of Borealis https://borealisdata.ca/, a federated Canadian Dataverse Repository, which is part of a bilingual, multidisciplinary, and secure Canadian research data repository network. The Libraries contribute to funding the Borealis infrastructure and support researcher data deposit for publications in compliance with granting agency and publisher data requirements. [6] 

The institution will support researchers with their research data management needs by continuing to provide assistance and training in the area of research data management planning through library programs, the Research Commons, and other professional development programs. [7] 

University Information Technology (UIT) currently supports faculty and student researchers through: 

  • High-performance connectivity to cloud providers, and R&E/ARC/HPC resources at regional (GTAnet), provincial (ORION), and national (CANARIE) levels, as well as general Internet.   
  • IT services for researchers including data storage, server hosting and management, collaboration services, identity and federated access arrangements for collaborating with research community outside York 
  • Consultations to assist with grant proposal development – including IT services, architecture advice, cost estimates, cybersecurity, etc. 
  • Cybersecurity consultation and assistance, including researcher practices are in line with requirements of data sharing agreements and other third-party obligations  
  • Support of VPRI institutional platforms (Sophia, eCV) 

The Office of Research Ethics will engage in ethics oversight in matters relating to data management for research involving human participants, animals and biohazardous materials by ensuring : 

  • TCPS2 regulations are followed, including protecting the rights and privacy of individuals   
  • Informed consent, where possible, includes a provision that makes possible a variety of publication options including open data  
  • Indigenous and community ethics practices are respected 

Under the guidance of VPRI and Libraries, research deans’ offices will review grant applications to ensure research data management plans and their associated costs are considered in proposals in accordance with grant requirements. 

Ethical, Legal, and Commercial Considerations  

York University offers support to researchers that enables compliance with ethical, legal and commercial requirements through various services. The Office of Research Ethics (ORE) supports academics seeking to undertake research involving human, animals or biological agents, and it provides the resources and expertise necessary for faculty to complete the appropriate ethics review process in an efficient and timely manner. The institution acknowledges that data management practices adopted by researchers must be consistent with ethical, legal and commercial obligations, as well as Tri-Agency requirements, including the Tri-Agency Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans – 2nd edition, the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research, and other relevant policies.

Indigenous Data

The institution recognizes that data created in the context of research by and with Indigenous communities must be managed according to a distinctions-based approach that ensures the unique rights, interests and circumstances of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented (Tri-Agency RDM Policy). This institutional strategy acknowledges and observes Indigenous data sovereignty in alignment with the Canadian Tri-Agency Data Management Policy [5].

The York University Indigenous Framework and Guidelines for Research Involving Indigenous Peoples currently help inform researchers and the Human Participants Review Committee as they prepare for and review research to be conducted with Indigenous communities (Guidelines for Research Involving Indigenous Peoples). A Senate Policy on Indigenous Research Involving Human Participants is forthcoming, along with corresponding updates to Indigenous Research Ethics Board (IREB) Procedures. York University will continue to align our frameworks and practices with forthcoming Indigenous RDM protocols developed by the Tri-Agencies:

Moving forward, the agencies plan to support the development of Indigenous RDM protocols that aim to ensure community consent, access and ownership of Indigenous data, and protection of Indigenous intellectual property rights. This next phase in advancing Indigenous RDM in Canada is outlined in Setting New Directions to Support Indigenous Research and Research Training in Canada 2019-2022” [6].

Commercialization Considerations

Innovation York facilitates and maximizes the commercial, economic, and social impacts of research & innovation, and creates a culture of engaged scholarship and experiential learning. Commercialization and commercial agreement considerations are supported by Innovation York.

External supports for capacity building

Institutional consultation surfaced the following areas where external resourcing supports will be needed to support the expansion of Research Data Management efforts at the university:

  • Funding support for research teams to remunerate staff when additional labour to implement research data management (inclusive of AODA compliance) through the grant project lifecycle is required
  • Expansion of FRDR functional requirements to support the deposit of sensitive data
  • National strategy to underwrite mounting costs for long term storage of Canadian research data, recognizing the plurality of research data formats and varied contexts of international collaboration
  • Funding for legal supports for Research Data Management in the arts that involve the navigation of complex intellectual property rights

Timelines and Looking Ahead 

Currently we are resourced to assist Tri-Agency funded researchers with the first round of applications requiring DMPs in 2023, drawing on our existing experience in working with researchers in the area of RDM.  (OADASC) will revisit the strategy, which is intended as a living document, based on researcher response and evolving Tri-Agency requirements. The review of the institutional strategy is an iterative process. As more is known we will have a better sense of resourcing needs to meet evolving objectives. We will plan for an annual review of York’s Institutional Strategy, by the OADASC, York University Libraries Senior Leadership team and the VPRI Executive team.  Should staff be required for assistance, it is possible that additional staff will be hired. The OAODSC will work to identify a permanent home for the ongoing review and sustainability of this work.

For more information, please contact:  

OADASC co-chairs: Joy Kirchner, Dean of Libraries and Jennifer Steeves, Associate Vice President Research & Innovation at OAODSCchairs@yorku.ca 

References

[1] Government of Canada. Research Data Management. https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/h_547652FB.html 

[2] Digital Research Alliance of Canada. Research Data Management. https://alliancecan.ca/en/services/research-data-management  

[3] UCLA Library. Data Management for Humanities. https://guides.library.ucla.edu/data-management-humanities

[4] Kathleen Shearer. Comprehensive Brief on Research Data Management Policies.   https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4552680 

[5] https://www.science.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/h_97610.html 

[6] York University Libraries. Research Data Management. https://www.library.yorku.ca/web/research-learn/research/rdm/ 

[7] Office of Research and Innovation. Research Commons. https://researchcommons.yorku.ca/ 

Definitions

Research data: Research data are data that are used as primary sources to support technical or scientific enquiry, research, scholarship, or creative practice, and that are used as evidence in the research process and/or are commonly accepted in the research community as necessary to validate research findings and results. Research data may be experimental data, observational data, operational data, third party data, public sector data, monitoring data, processed data, or repurposed data. (Adapted from: Tri-Agency RDM Strategy FAQ

Research data management: Research data management refers to the processes applied throughout the lifecycle of a research project to guide the collection, documentation, storage, sharing, and preservation of research data. (Adapted from: Tri-Agency RDM Strategy FAQ

Data management plan: A data management plan (DMP) is a formal statement describing how research data will be managed, documented, and preserved during the research process and once the project is completed. A DMP is a living document, typically associated with an individual research project or program that consists of the practices, processes and strategies that pertain to a set of specified topics related to data management and curation. DMPs should be modified throughout the course of a research project to reflect changes in project design, methods, or other considerations. Data management planning is an international best practice which supports the responsible conduct of research and respects the disciplinary norms inherent in how research data are collected and described in various fields. (Adapted from: Tri-Agency RDM Strategy FAQ and CODATA RDM Glossary Definition