„Towards Open Research Data in Poland” – a report from the Open Science Platform

The Open Science Platform (ICM, University of Warsaw) has recently published a report „Towards Open Research Data in Poland”, by Jakub Szprot, Krzysztof Siewicz and Wojciech Fenrich. The issue of open research data has not been discussed much in Poland yet and the goal of this report is to initiate a debate on this topic.

The report consists of two large chapters. The first chapter provides an analysis of the legal framework concerning research data, including both the international and European context and the specific Polish situation, while the second chapter presents the results of an empirical study on the attitudes towards and practical approaches to open data among members of the Polish academic community.

The legal framework chapter gives an overview of the most important issues related to open data. The authors define ‘open data’ as data that can be freely re-used which means that all rights connected with the dataset need to be identified and cleared. The report discusses two main aspects relevant for this. Firstly, it discusses copyright and database rights owned by the producer(s) of the data (the researchers collecting the data and/or the research institution that employs them) versus rights owned by third-parties (persons who contributed in any way to the data, e.g. by being creators of individual objects that were later collected by the researcher and thus became parts of a research dataset, or by being subjects of the research). Secondly, the report looks at datasets as complex, structured objects, and analyses the different layers at which the various rights can apply (rights to the dataset as a whole versus rights protecting individual pieces included in the dataset).

This part of the report also includes an overview of open licenses that are most frequently used for research data, and it briefly describes the approaches currently used to deal with legal issues in research datasets, using several examples of established data repositories from around the world. The conclusions are that on a practical level some issues are not yet solved, so the problems are left to the potential data users who must cope with them on their own.

The second part of the legal framework chapter deals with the legal situation in Poland, and it goes deeper into specific regulations. Relevant aspects of copyright law and the database protection act (sui generis rights) are discussed, as well as two issues that are most relevant for third-party rights, i.e. personal data protection and privacy protection. The whole chapter concludes with some comments on strategies to remove the legal obstacles that prevent open sharing of research data.

The second chapter presents the results of an empirical study that analyzed the attitudes of Polish researchers towards open data. The first part of this analysis was a quantitative study. The data was collected by means of a web questionnaire, distributed among researchers in July-August 2015. Over 2 months, 630 respondents completed the survey (among them PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and professors). The questionnaire contained more than 50 questions, covering the following areas: attitudes towards data sharing in general, individual experience with sharing data, awareness of legal issues related to data sharing, factors that could encourage or discourage the respondents from sharing their data, their views on how broadly they would like to share their data (i.e., to whom would they want to make it available), and what factors they would take into account when deciding whether to use somebody else’s data. The results show that the general attitudes towards data sharing are decidedly positive in the Polish community (although, as pointed out by the author of the study, „the selection of the respondents was not random and the results cannot be extrapolated to the community of Polish researchers as a whole”), but the researchers are not necessarily in favour of sharing data fully openly – they like having some control over further possible usages of their data. Another important result is that there is very limited knowledge in the community about legal issues related to data sharing. The section on enablers and obstacles to sharing shows that career-related  incentives are most important (rather than e.g. direct financial rewards), as well as making data sharing (and data usage) as simple and effortless as possible.

The empirical analysis included also a qualitative study, consisting of a series of 10 deepened, individual interviews, also performed in 2015. One topic that came up in the interviews was the variety of research data: the type and size of data varies so strongly even between groups from the same discipline or research institution that designing solutions that would work for everyone is very difficult. The second major conclusion was that the evaluation system in Poland does not provide incentives for opening data, neither on the individual (researcher) level, nor at the institutional (research unit) level. Researchers who try to share their data as openly as possible do so  because they consider this ethically proper or they see incentives coming from the international scientific community. On the institutional level, however, there is no interest for the issue. As a result, researchers in Poland are left to themselves: they receive very little financial, technical or legal institutional backup for issues related to data sharing.

The last part of the report contains a list of recommendations for the Polish academia, including the institutional level (recommendations for the research funders, research-performing organizations, scientific publishers and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland) and the level of  individual researchers.

Link to the full report: http://pon.edu.pl/index.php/nasze-publikacje?pubid=19

Marta Hoffman-Sommer

Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling, University of Warsaw. OpenAIRE NOAD for Poland.

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