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Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy

1. Preamble

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (the agencies) are federal granting agencies that promote and support research, research training, knowledge transfer and innovation within Canada.

The agencies expect the research they fund to be conducted to the highest professional and disciplinary standards, domestically and internationally. These standards support research excellence by ensuring that research is performed ethically and makes good use of public funds, experiments and studies are replicable, and research results are as accessible as possible. Research data management (RDM) is a necessary part of research excellence.

The agencies believe 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. To this end, the agencies support the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) guiding principles for research data management and stewardship.

The agencies acknowledge the diversity of models of scientific and scholarly inquiry that advance knowledge within and across the disciplines represented by agency mandates. The agencies therefore recognize that there are legitimate differences in the standards for RDM among the disciplines, areas of research, and modes of inquiry that the agencies support.

In line with the concept of Indigenous self-determination and in an effort to support Indigenous communities to conduct research and partner with the broader research community, the agencies recognize 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, and on the basis of free, prior and informed consent. This includes, but is not limited to, considerations of Indigenous data sovereignty, as well as data collection, ownership, protection, use, and sharing. The principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP®) are one model for First Nations data governance, but this model does not necessarily respond to the needs and values of distinct First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, collectives and organizations. The agencies recognize that a distinctions-based approach is needed to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented.

The agencies strongly support the creation of a robust and efficient environment for data stewardship in Canada and internationally. The agencies have encouraged data management through the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (2016), the Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management (2016), the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (2014), CIHR’s Health Research and Health-Related Data Framework (2017), SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving Policy (1990), and data sharing provisions for CIHR grant holders in the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications (2015). Building on this work, the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy will further promote excellence in data management practices within the Canadian research community.

2. Policy Objective

The objective of this policy is to support Canadian research excellence by promoting sound RDM and data stewardship practices. This policy is not an open data policy.

3. Policy Statement

Institutions

3.1 Institutional Strategy

Each postsecondary institution and research hospital eligible to administer CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC funds is required to create an institutional RDM strategy and notify the agencies when it has been completed.

The strategy must be made publicly available on the institution’s website, with contact information to which inquiries about the strategy can be directed. Having the strategies publicly available will help the agencies and the broader research community to understand institutions’ current and planned RDM capacity, challenges and needs, and will facilitate ongoing dialogue and collaboration on the advancement of RDM in Canada.

The agencies recognize that each strategy will reflect the institution’s particular circumstances—for example, institution size, research intensity, and existing RDM capacity—but in all cases, the agencies expect high quality strategies that outline how the institution will provide its researchers with an environment that enables and supports RDM. Strategies should include items such as:

  • recognizing data as an important research output;
  • supporting researchers in their efforts to establish and implement data management practices that are consistent with ethical, legal and commercial obligations, as well as tri-agency requirements, including the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans – 2nd edition, the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research, and other relevant policies;
  • promoting the importance of data management to researchers, staff and students;
  • guiding their researchers on how to properly manage data in accordance with the principles outlined in the Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management, including the development of data management plans;
  • committing to the adoption of established best practices when developing institutional standards and policies for data management plans;
  • providing, or supporting access to, repository services or other platforms that securely preserve, curate and provide appropriate access to research data;
  • recognizing that data created in the context of research by and with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, collectives and organizations will be managed according to principles developed and approved by those communities, collectives and organizations, and in partnership with them;
  • recognizing that a distinctions-based approach is needed to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented.

The institution should regularly review and revise the strategy where appropriate, for instance, as RDM services, infrastructure and practices evolve.

Researchers

3.2 Data management plans

All grant proposals submitted to the agencies should include methodologies that reflect best practices in RDM. For certain funding opportunities, the agencies will require data management plans (DMPs) to be submitted to the appropriate agency at the time of application, as outlined in the call for proposals; in these cases, the DMPs will be considered in the adjudication process.

DMPs are living documents that can be modified to accommodate changes throughout the course of a research project. The content and length of DMPs depend on the research project, but all DMPs should describe:

  • how data will be collected, documented, formatted, protected and preserved;
  • how existing datasets will be used and what new data will be created over the course of the research project;
  • whether and how data will be shared; and
  • where data will be deposited.

DMPs also indicate who is responsible for managing the project’s data, describe the succession plans in place should that person leave the research team, and identify the data-related roles and responsibilities of other team members where appropriate. Finally, DMPs outline ethical, legal and commercial constraints the data are subject to, and methodological considerations that support or preclude data sharing.

For research conducted by and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, collectives and organizations, DMPs must be co-developed with these communities, collectives and organizations, in accordance with RDM principles or DMP formats that they accept. DMPs in the context of research by and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, collectives and organizations should recognize Indigenous data sovereignty and include options for renegotiation of the DMP.

3.3 Data Deposit

Grant recipients are required to deposit into a digital repository all digital research data, metadata and code that directly support the research conclusions in journal publications and pre-prints that arise from agency-supported research. Determining what counts as relevant research data, and which data should be preserved, is often highly contextual and should be guided by disciplinary norms.

The deposit must be made by time of publication. The choice of repository may be guided by disciplinary expectations and the recipient’s own judgment, but in all cases the repository must ensure safe storage, preservation and curation of the data.

Grant recipients are not required to share their data. However, the agencies expect researchers to provide appropriate access to the data where ethical, cultural, legal and commercial requirements allow, and in accordance with the FAIR principles and the standards of their disciplines. Whenever possible, these data, metadata and code should be linked to the publication with a persistent digital identifier.

For research conducted by and with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, collectives and organizations, these communities, collectives or organizations will guide and ultimately determine how the data are collected, used and preserved, and have the right to repatriate the data. This could result in exceptions to the data deposit requirement.

4. Implementation dates

The agencies plan to implement the policy incrementally, as determined through ongoing engagement with the research community and other stakeholders, and in step with the continuing development of research data practices and capacity in Canada and internationally.

  • Institutional strategies: By March 1, 2023, research institutions subject to this requirement must post their RDM strategies and notify the agencies when they have been completed.
  • Data management plans: By spring 2022, the agencies will identify the initial set of funding opportunities subject to the DMP requirement. The agencies will pilot the DMP requirement in targeted funding opportunities before this date.
  • Data deposit: After reviewing the institutional strategies and in line with the readiness of the Canadian research community, the agencies will phase in the deposit requirement.
    • CIHR-funded researchers: Since January 1, 2008, recipients of CIHR funding have had to comply with the limited data deposit requirements included in the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. They must continue to comply with these requirements, which are specific to bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data.

The policy will be updated as the implementation dates for requirements are further specified.

5. Compliance with policy

By accepting agency funds, institutions and researchers accept the terms and conditions as set out in the agencies’ policies, agreements and guidelines. In the event of an alleged breach of agency policy, agreement or guideline, the agency may take steps outlined in accordance with the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research to deal with the allegation.

6. Policy Review

The agencies will review and revise this policy as appropriate, in collaboration with the Canadian research community and its partners.

7. Additional Information

For more information about the policy and the requirements, including tools and guidance, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions

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