Canadian governments and publicly funded researchers produce huge amounts of data that hold enormous potential for additional discovery and innovation. These data have virtually unlimited potential to be re-used in innovative ways – by researchers, industry, policy makers, and civil society – if they are properly managed in an infrastructure that provides long-term preservation and access. Within research communities, the potential for research data is already changing the way some institutions conduct research. For example, to catalyze discovery, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University will make all results, data and publications from its research open. It will also require all collaborators to do likewise and is giving up all IP rights to resultant discoveries.
In order for publicly funded research data to be most beneficial to researchers and industry – and thus fuel research, innovation, and commercial opportunities in Canada – it must be easy to find, access, reuse, and the data must be accompanied by sufficient descriptive information and permissions to make it useful. In other words, the data should be Open.
In order to ensure that Canada is a global leader for data, and data-driven innovation, Canada should seek to not only adhere to, but also lead in the development of, global best practices in research data management. Research Data Canada (RDC) is a stakeholder-driven organization, supported by CANARIE, which is dedicated to improving the management of research data in Canada. RDC brings together key stakeholders to develop strategy, facilitate communication and partnerships, promote education and training, measure progress, and bring attention to gaps. For example, a recent success was the development of “A Statement of Principles for Research Data Management in Canadian Universities”, which was developed by a taskforce involving RDC, senior representatives of 16 institutions, as well as of the federal granting councils and other national organizations with an interest in research data. RDC is now undertaking an exercise to seek endorsement of these Principles by the Vice Presidents Research community, which has met with early success.
Mark Leggott, Executive Director, Research Data Canada (RDC)