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Accessing research data

As a researcher you’ll be familiar with the issues associated with needed to move data around, as research rarely just happens in one place. Remote access to your data and transferring data to colleagues elsewhere is a persistent problem for research projects.

This section will look at four major areas of data access:

Sharing data with others

When undertaking a collaborative project you may find that a number of individuals need access to your data under a range of different access permissions such as read only, update or write.

How and with whom you can share your data will depend on a number of factors, especially how the data is classified under the University’s Information Security Framework. The framework has led to the development of a policy on the classification of data into four classes of information:

  • Public
  • Protected
  • Restricted
  • Reserved

It is important that you are familiar with these policies and that you know under which classification your data falls. Which class of data you are working with will determine how you can share you data. To assist staff in students in using the Information Security Framework, there is an e-learning module available to all staff and students accessible through the moodle platform.

Share folders

If you need to share folders of research data within the University you will need to contact either, your department IT support or IT Services directly about group storage and shared drives. Folders provided for group research projects can be set up with a range of permissions.

If you need to share data with colleagues outside Warwick you need to talk to IT Services who will try to find a solution that meets your needs.

Secure information transfer

There are a number of methods available for you to use - the choice of the transfer method would depend on the information classification and circumstances - e.g. whether is it paper based information, whether you want to transfer information between departments on campus (internally), whether your department has any extra rules/regulations that you need to consider etc.

For colleagues thinking of using one of the many popular cloud services the University has guidance on the selection and use of cloud services to transferring and storing data.

Accessing your own data remotely

Accessing your data on campus is very easy, all networked PCs are set up to give you access to your personal filestore (H:Drive), departmental filestore and any additional file space you have been allocated access to.

Accessing the same range of folders and files off campus can be managed in a range of ways depending on how long you will be working in a particular location. Regardless of the method used to access your files you should always bear in mind the requirements of the Information Security Framework »

Access other data

There is a growing movement to release research data publicly so it may be that you can enrich the data for your project with data that has been released by other researchers. To do this you’ll need to be aware of what data is available and if there are data services/centres available in your area of research.

These data services tend to fall into two varieties, discipline or funder specific data services and/or archives and those data centres that take a wide variety of data from many disciplines. There are also a range of services that can help you search for data across these services.

Funder specific data services

Many funders are supplementing their mandates on access to research data with data centres to support the deposit and access to research data:

  • Social science funders the ESRC funds the UK Data Service for its funded data and other significant social science datasets
  • The Archaeology Data Service 
  • NERC has funded a range of data centres for the research it funds
  • The STFC funds a number of data centres but not all of them curate data
  • Data.gov.uk, UK government public data
  • Databib, a catalogue of research data repositories
  • Registry of Research Data Repositories, a catalogue of research data repositories
  • Figshare, a general purpose repository including data sets
  • Zenodo, another general purpose repository for all fields of science. Zenodo accepts closed access uploads.

Other data services

Be aware: If you plan to use data where any rights (copyright material, software or database) may be owned by a third party you will need to understand the terms and conditions under which they have been supplied to you. These terms may cover the use you can put the data to and how you may be allowed to access, store and manage this data. Unless reuse rights have been explicitly stated, for example in the license associated with the data, you will need to seek permission from the owner for any reuse you plan.

Data obtained from most of the data services/centres above will have clear license agreements associated with the data. Be aware also that under the terms and conditions of the use of some data you may be required to deposit any derived work with the data you accessed the original data from.

Do investigate what data might already be available when starting a project, you will often need to state what you found in your Data Management Plan »

Citing research data

Using others research data in your project should be acknowledged in a similar way to the use of a research paper and there are a growing guidance and practices on the proper citation of datasets. Your journal or publisher may have specific guidelines on this and general guidance can be found from the DataCite project »

In the main the citation should read:

Creator (PublicationYear): Title. Publisher. Identifier

Or in a fuller version if you need to include information on the version of the dataset used or the type of resource the dataset represents (form example: dataset; image; software etc.)

Creator (PublicationYear): Title. Version. Publisher. ResourceType. Identifier

Some example citations, taken from the DataCite Project, following this general method:

representation of data