Easy access to data benefits research and contributes to cooperation across borders. However, it is of utmost importance that the legal requirements and the principles of research ethics are respected. It is equally important that these requirements and principles are clear, easy to understand and easy to apply.
Requirements from funders
These days, many national and international funders require publications resulting from the projects they fund to be published as open access (OA) publications, and for this OA publishing to be part of the project reporting.
Parallel publishing, which is free of cost, is accepted by most funders. Others will grant extra funds for OA publishing in order to allow for OA publishing that is subject to a charge, including in non-OA publications. In those cases, the total amount stated in the application for project support can include the possible added cost of OA publishing.
Funders and publishing houses are also showing an increasing interest in access to research data, with the main purpose of being able to access and re-use data for other purposes than the original one.
The Swedish Research Council is currently working on guidelines for OA publishing of research data. All data from research funded with state resources will be subject to these guidelines.
Principles of research ethics
The work of researchers is regulated through various acts and regulations, but when it comes to research ethics it is ultimately the researchers themselves who are responsible for ensuring that their research is of good quality and is morally justified.
Research on people is tried by ethical review boards. Permission to perform research on animals is granted by animal ethics committees. For research on genetically modified bacteria, plants and animals, prior permission from e.g. the Swedish Work Environment Authority is needed. Research involving ionising radiation requires permission from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.
The Swedish Research Council has published a report entitled 'Good research practice' (1:2011), a useful summary of the legal and ethical prerequisites for research and also an important source of information on the rules in force. Other useful documents are Good Clinical Practice (GCP), Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and Övergripande principer för offentlighet och sekretess i integritetskänslig forskning (Principles for public access and confidentiality in integrity-sensitive research, only available in Swedish).
The principles of research ethics and the legal requirements assume that researchers organise their collected data well, that they are traceable, authentic and their integrity preserved, and that data and other research records are preserved in a suitable and sufficient manner.
Test your knowledge
- Who is responsible for the quality of research?
- Who monitors research involving animals?
- Who is responsible for the authenticity and integrity of data?