Stewardship of Research Data in Canada: A Gap Analysis

I have previously blogged (see Research Data Canada) on work by The Canadian Research Data Strategy Working Group.

Its report “Stewardship of Research Data in Canada: A Gap Analysis” is now available. Using the data lifecycle as a framework, the report examines Canada’s current state versus an ‘ideal state’ based on existing international best practices across 10 indicators. The indicators include: policies, funding, roles and responsibilities, standards, data repositories, skills and training, accessibility, and preservation.

The analysis reveals significant barriers to the access and preservation of research data ’” barriers that could have a serious impact on the future of Canadian research and innovation if not addressed. For example, large amounts of data are being lost because of the woefully inadequate number of trusted data repositories in Canada.

The report summarises gaps for Canadian research data across the data lifecycle as follows:

Data Production

  • Priority is on immediate use, rather than potential for long-term exploitation.
  • Limited funding mechanisms to prepare data appropriately for later use.
  • Few research institutions require data management plans.
  • No national organization that can advise and assist with application of data standards.

Data Dissemination

  • Lack of policies governing the standards applied to ensure data dissemination.
  • Researchers unwilling to share data, because of lack of time and expertise required.
  • Some policies require certain types of data be destroyed after a research project is over.

Long-term Management of Data

  • Lack of coverage and capacity of data repositories.
  • Preservation activities in repositories are not comprehensive.
  • Limited funding for data repositories in Canada.
  • Few incentives for researchers to deposit data into archives.

Discovery and Repurposing

  • Most data rests on the hard drives of researchers and is inaccessible by others.
  • Per per view and licensed access mechanisms are common where data are available.
  • Many researchers are reluctant to enable access to their data because they feel it is their intellectual property.

The gap analysis will be extremely familar to many – reflecting difficulties recognised and responded to in many different countries such as the USA (Datanets), Australia (ANDS), and the UK (UKRDS feasibility study). It is pleasing to see the report cite the UK and USA as two countries that are seen internationally to be leading responses to these challenges.

It is reported that in the last several months, the Canadian Research Data Strategy Working Group has also made progress on a number of other fronts. Three Task Groups have been established to support efforts in addressing the gaps identified in the analysis. The Task Groups are:

1. Policies, funding and research;

2. Infrastructure and services; and

3. Capacity (skills, training, and reward systems). The Capacity Task Group is currently developing a workshop on data management for researchers, which it hopes to begin offering in 2009.

The next steps for the Working Group are to develop an action plan and an engagement strategy to involve senior leaders from the various institutions represented on the Working Group.

Trackback this Post | Feed on comments to this Post

Leave your Comment