ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 6. Data Management Practices
The continued evolution of data policies will likely be driven by a number of different issues, including the growing complexity of data and debates about proper control.
Complexity. Our capacity to generate data sometimes outstrips our capacity to store and share it. Data storage and sharing were major problems during the early years of the Human Genome project. They continue to pose problems for any research area that is able to generate massive amounts of information efficiently and inexpensively. DNA microarray chips can generate 10,000 bits of information with a single, easily conducted test. The logistics of storing and sharing this information presents a monumental challenge for everyone engaged in research. Even when researchers want to, it is not always clear how they should go about collecting, storing, and sharing data responsibly.
Control. In large projects, questions frequently arise about the control of data, particularly when financial interests are at stake. Should researchers participating in large, multi-site clinical trials have the right to publish their own findings, that is, retain some control over their own data, or should the collection, storage, and interpretation be centralized? This issue is currently unresolved and the subject of intense public debate.
National security. Recent events have heightened concerns about the possible use of data from publicly supported research by terrorists and nations that could pose a threat to national security. Efforts are underway to address these concerns through voluntary policies and new Federal regulations (e.g., USA Patriot Act of 2001) that will assure reasonable control without unduly restricting the ability of researchers toshare their work and ideas freely with one another (see the recent report, Biological
Threats and Terrorism, Additional Reading). Researchers whose work could be affected by these concerns should keep abreast of ongoing policy development and regulation.
However these issues are resolved, researchers have been the most important component of responsible data management practices in the past and will likely remain so as long as the public feels the majority of researchers can be trusted. With this in mind, ask yourself how someone funding your research would feel if he or she had a chance to take a close look at your data management practices.