OpenAIRE Research: Legal issues in Dealing with Research Data & Making your repository Open

OpenAIRE is a European H2020 funded infrastructure aimed at promoting Open Science and open scholarly communications. As the coordinator of the legal task force on copyright and data, Dr. Thomas Margoni presented a webinar on ‘Legal issues in Dealing with Research Data’ presenting three users’ guides developed to navigate the complex world of research data and licensing: ‘How do I know if my research data is protected?’; ‘How do I license my research data?’, and; ‘Can I reuse someone else’s research data?’. The webinar is recorded and available here.

In the webinar, Dr. Margoni highlighted how oftentimes when discussing data, the scientific community may speak a different language from law; in fact, there is no legal definition of what constitutes “research data”. Instead, copyright law restricts itself to defining databases, and providing protection of the structure of the database itself rather than the data therein – a concept which may seem counterintuitive to many researchers. The European context becomes even more complex as the sui generis database right applies to databases accrued with “substantial investment”, quite separately of any originality requirement. As such, even fundamental questions of data ownership are difficult.

The latter half of the seminar focussed on the nuts and bolts of data licensing, addressing common misconceptions that “licences equals protection” rather than permission, and surveying licensing options for researchers. Again, in this context the scientific community and law may diverge in their approaches; many communities may value attribution as a norm when reusing data, though the law may not prescribe such protections. As such, Dr. Margoni urges a critical approach when licensing research data, recommending that CC0 licences may be both the safest (and most open) option for researchers. The webinar was followed by a Q&A session which highlighted researcher’s concerns regarding making valuable data ‘public’ and the ethics of reuse.

Another important legal tool developed within the project is a checklist for content providers on “Making your repository Open”, which provides detailed (but manageable) guidance on copyright and related rights issues for online repositories. The guide aims at encouraging and facilitating openness in repositories – not just the content therein, but also the repository itself. Per the Budapest Declaration, users must be able to crawl, scrape, mine etc. databases if these are to meet the definition of open access; but also, open repositories benefit from increased visibility and impact by encouraging wider and more creative public use. The guide includes information on appropriate open licensing options both for the repository itself, as well as the content, metadata and any accompanying datasets therein. Throughout, the guide links to useful tools and real-life examples of working open repositories.

CREATe is developing a core strand of work on Open Science. For further information on open access and text and data mining see Research Blog Series: OpenMinTeD.

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