Data are a fundamental element of the research process, as they form the evidentiary basis upon which analyses, syntheses, and creative processes are carried out and knowledge is gained. Research data are used as primary sources to support a wide range of activities, including technical and scientific inquiry, research, scholarship, and creative practice. Good management and stewardship of research data supports research excellence by improving efficiency and integrity, enabling new types of exploration, and supporting research transparency and reproducibility. Research data are an asset to the research enterprise, and their management is important to researchers, institutions, governments, and the public. Grounded in an extensive research process and informed by broad engagement and consultation with the institution’s research stakeholder communities, this Strategy has been co-developed by McMaster’s Institutional Strategy Working Group (ISWG), which comprises representatives from the faculties, research and IT support units, research centres and institutes, and affiliated research hospitals.
What is Research Data Management (RDM)?
Research Data Management is a suite of connected processes and practices applied throughout the research lifecycle—i.e., as data are planned for, collected, organized, documented, stored, preserved, shared, and reused—in support of analysis, research, creative works, and dissemination that benefit society. It is a critical component of the digital research infrastructure (DRI) that supports scholarship and innovation within and beyond McMaster University. Applying good RDM practices improves the efficiency and impact of research, increases research visibility, facilitates collaboration, protects intellectual property, enables reuse and verification of research results, and supports a culture of reproducibility. Developing, learning, and implementing good RDM practices are the shared responsibilities of researchers (whether faculty, students, staff, or community collaborators), their communities of practice, institutions, governments, and funding agencies.
The Tri-Agency RDM Policy and Institutional Strategy development
In March 2021, CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC released the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy to advance Canadian research excellence and ensure that publicly funded research is supported by sound RDM and data stewardship practices. The policy asserts that “research data collected through the use of public funds should be responsibly and securely managed and be, where ethical, legal and commercial obligations allow, available for reuse by others.” Each postsecondary institution eligible to administer Tri-Agency funds is required to develop an institutional RDM Strategy that outlines “how the institution will provide its researchers with an environment that enables and supports RDM.” This Strategy document serves as McMaster’s submission to the Tri-Agency to satisfy this requirement.
The Tri-Agency Policy also calls for RDM strategies and practices to align with Indigenous self-determination, stating that “data related to research by and with the First Nations, Métis, or Inuit whose traditional and ancestral territories are in Canada must be managed in accordance with data management principles developed and approved by these communities.” In collaboration with McMaster’s Indigenous research leadership, this Strategy document addresses the specific responsibilities for research by and with Indigenous communities, while also integrating principles of Indigenous data sovereignty into general RDM practices.
Expanding outwards from satisfying Tri-Agency Policy requirements, this Strategy document is an opportunity to engage in broad dialogue and synthesize information about RDM needs and challenges across McMaster University. We aim to develop a cooperative and coordinated approach to supporting research and scholarship—in alignment with institutional priorities and plans, as well as services at a provincial and national level. This document is not a policy; rather, it is a framework within which future collaboration and development can take place. It will be revisited and revised regularly as requirements, needs, services, and associated initiatives evolve. Like the Tri-Agency RDM Policy, our Institutional Strategy is not an open data policy, and recognizes the importance of protecting ethical, legal, and commercial responsibilities and agreements.