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Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by research data?
What is the university’s position on the management of research data?
What are the requirements of research funders and publishers on the accessibility of research data?
Why should research data be preserved?
What are the arguments for making research data publicly available?
Where and how can research data be published?
How do I create a data management plan for my project?
How can I publish my data on heiDATA?
Under which license can I publish my data on heiDATA?
Which open-source license can I choose for my software development?
Which file formats can be used in heiDATA?
Further information

What is meant by research data?

It is hardly possible to give an all-encompassing definition of what is meant by the term “research data”. The expression is used here in a very open manner. Generally speaking research data is data which is gathered during a research process and on which scientific hypotheses, models or theories are built. Depending on the discipline and research context examples for research data are MRI scans in medicine, sets of questions and answers of a survey in the social sciences, results of a series of measurements in chemistry experiments, large text corpora for text-mining analysis in linguistics etc. With regard to services concerning archiving and publication of research data, which are the focus of this website, the only relevant property of research data is that it is digital data or can be transformed into digital data.

What is the university’s position on the management of research data?

In its Research Data PolicyExterner Inhalt adopted in July 2014 Heidelberg University has agreed on guidelines concerning the management of research data. The policy calls all principle investigators to develop data management plans for their research projects which ensure the use of and access to research data in compliance with ethical and open access principles under appropriate safety measures. According to the policy the Competence Centre for Research Data shall provide support for developing and realizing these data management plan.

What are the requirements of research funders and publishers on the accessibility of research data?

Research funders put an increasing emphasis on the accessibility of research data. This is shown exemplarily by the data policies of the EU and the DFG.

Also publishers and editors of scientific journals push for the publication of research data. Examples are the policies for data accessibility by PLOS and Nature.

Why should research data be preserved?

Long-term preservation of research data is a prerequisite for the scrutiny of scientific results based on the analysis of this data. Furthermore, data preservation provides the possibility for the prospective re-use of the data in the context of new research questions. Thus, it is an important aspect for good scientific practice.

For this reason the University’s rules for safeguarding good scientific practiceExterner Inhalt demands the preservation of research data for at least ten years. Also the DFG and other research funding institutions like the EUExterner Inhalt recommend the long-term preservation of research data.

What are the arguments for making research data publicly available?

Data Publications make research data available to the scientific community beyond the scope of a specific research project. Thus, data becomes visible and gains credit as an independent scientific achievement. Of course it is always in your discretion to decide whether and at which point of time you make your data available for collaborating researchers or the whole scientific community.

Due to the allocation of persistent identifiers like DOIsExterner Inhalt durable referencing of data sets becomes possible which in turn ensures the citeability of the data sets. Furthermore, persistent identifiers provide the basis for interlinking published data sets and publications based on this data. These links give you the opportunity to refer directly to the underlying data in your publications.

The following arguments speak in favour of the publication of research data:

  • Visibility of your data which in turn provides you with scientific reputation for collecting them.
  • Transparency and verifiability of your results.
  • Possible re-usage of your data for new research questions, in combination with additional data sets and in interdisciplinary contexts.
  • Increased visibility of your publications: Studies indicate that citation rates of articles increase when underlying data sets are also publicly available. Cf. Piwowar, Day & Fridsma (2007)Externer Inhalt und Piwowar & Vision (2013)Externer Inhalt.
  • Avoidance of duplication of data collection efforts because of re-usage possibilities.
  • Fulfilment of requirements on the public availability of research data from research funders like DFG or EU as well as of a series of journals, e.g. Nature’s Scientific ReportsExterner Inhalt.

Where and how can research data be published?

There are several options making your data sets publicly available:

  • Subject specific data archives and data centres, e.g. DryadExterner Inhalt for medicine and life sciences or PangaeaExterner Inhalt for the earth sciences.
  • Data supplements to journal articles, e.g. in NatureExterner Inhalt.
  • Data journals, e.g. GigaScience or Journal of Chemical and Engineering DataExterner Inhalt.
  • heiDATA, the research data archive of Heidelberg University. Please contact us in case you are interested in publishing your data with us. 
  • For image and other AV data: heidICONExterner Inhalt, Heidelberg’s Image and Multimedia Database
  • A comprehensive registry of research data repositories is offered by re3data.

If you are unsure which services serve your needs please do not hesitate to contact us.

How do I create a data management plan for my project?

In order to ensure a sustainable and re-usable archiving of your data you should develop a data management plan at an early stage of your research process. If necessary, we are glad to support you in writing a data management plan for your project. For the creation of data management plans we recommend using DMPonline. This software, developed by the Digital Curation Centre (DDC), allows a stepwise construction of data management plans specifically tailored for your project and the requirements of various research founders. DMPonline is free of charge. Created plans can be exported in various file formats, e.g. for integrating them in project proposals.

With regard to a sustainable data management the description of your data with suitable metadata is essential because your data can only be interpreted by others if there is a precise description, which places the data into the right context. The description process guided by a suitable metadata scheme should begin as early as possible already during the data collection period.

Also the choice of appropriate file formats plays a crucial role here as well as questions of storage, backups and the controlled access to the data. Especially with respect to a potential re-usage of the data you should be aware not only of technical but also legal aspects (copyright law and when indicated personal rights and privacy laws). Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice on your research project and your individual needs.

How can I publish my data on heiDATA?

Here you can find our author instructions for publishing research data in heiDATA.

Under which license can I publish my data on heiDATA?

heiDATA enables a variety of licensing models for publishing your data. We recommend using Creative Commons or Open Data Commons licenses. In our view the CC-BY license is currently the best choice for releasing your data in accordance with the principles of open access and open science. More restrictive licenses with “share alike” components can lead to incompatibilities with further licenses and might hinder reuse and collaborative work. Also “non derivatives” or ”non commercial” clauses restrict the potential use of your data – especially in scientific contexts. (Cf. Andreas Wiebe and Lucie Guibault:  Safe to be open - Study on the protection of research data and recommendations for access and usage (2013) for a comprehensive overview on legal issues with regard to research data in the European juridical area.)

In our archival and publication agreement on pages 4f you can also find further information on the recommended licenses.

Which open-source license can I choose for my software development?

The increase in open-source software is accompanied by an enlargement of available license models. Hereby, the various versions of the GNU General Public Licenses are of the most commonly used. General support for choosing an adequate license is offered by Choosealicense. Further information and specific details on the different license models can be retrieved from the website of the Free Software Foundation.

According to the guidelines of Heidelberg University, the selection of an appropriate license should also consider the economic potential of the respective software development. In consultation with the Research Division, Department 6.1: Legal and Structural Issues of Research Funding, the best licensing solution for your development can be discussed.

Which file formats can be used in heiDATA?

heiDATA is suited for archiving of various file formats. With regard to an optimal long-term preservation of your data it is recommended to use non-proprietary and well documented file formats if possible. Furthermore textual file formats are usually more suitable for long-term archiving than binary formats. Additionally it is of course important which formats are standard formats in your scientific community. We do offer advice on choosing appropriate formats for your data and, if necessary, we do also offer support for converting your data in a suitable archiving format.

Further information

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Latest Revision: 2017-10-16
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