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.
What is Research Data Management (RDM)?
Research Data Management (RDM) 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 are beneficial to 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 a shared responsibility of researchers (whether faculty, students, staff, or community collaborators), their communities of practice, institutions, and funding agencies.
Tri-Agency RDM Policy 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.” Aligning with Indigenous self-determination, this policy outlines 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 researchers, 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 also an opportunity for broad dialogue 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. Our strategy is not a policy; rather, it is a framework within which future collaboration and development can take place. 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.
RDM - a research community responsibility
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), with representatives from the faculties, research and IT support units, research centres and institutes, and affiliated research hospitals. This document will be revisited and revised regularly as requirements, needs, services, and associated initiatives evolve.