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Data protection and research data management

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It is very important that research at the OU is legal, ethical and enacted responsibly.

Two teams are available to support your gathering, storage and handling of data.

The Data Protection team advise on Data Protection (DP) laws and data processing.

The Library Research Support team advise on Data Management more broadly. In particular they can help researchers create a Data Management Plan (DMP). Whilst a DMP would include some discussion of DP issues, it is a document where a researcher plans every stage of data collection, handling, processing, storage, archiving and sharing.

Data protection responsibilities

If your research project will involve the collection or processing of personal and/or sensitive data, you will need to gain approval for your plans from the Data Protection team. The process of assessing any OU staff plans to collect and process data which falls under the UK Data Protection Act (2018), including as part of research, is outlined on the Data Protection by Design (internal link only) site. The Data Protection Act also considers a range of activities related to data handling which covers people’s rights to know how data about them are being handled. To assess how these relate to your study, an online form should be included to assess the risk level of your study from a data protection perspective, to offer advice and feedback on your data protection plans and to prepare an approved information asset register entry (internal link only). Further information about assessing your responsibilities for Data Protection in Research can be found in the Research Guidance document (internal link only)..

Once you have had your information asset register entry for any personal and sensitive data processing approved by the Data Protection Team, you should lodge this with your Faculty Information Governance Liaison Officer (internal link only) if you are collecting personal data as part of your research, to get your research added to the Information Asset Register (internal only).

Research Data Management

Research Data Management concerns the management, preservation and sharing of any research data which are collected, created or used during the course of your research.

OU researchers and research students are expected to adhere to the OU Research Data Management Policy as well as any other relevant funder policies, by creating a Data Management Plan, managing data responsibly throughout their lifecycle and wherever possible by sharing research data in a trusted data repository.

A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a project document which describes the data (or similar evidence) that a project will collect, create or use; how it will be organised and stored during the project; how it will be archived at the end of the project and how access will be granted (where appropriate). Although it is not a requirement to submit a DMP as part of your HREC application, it is recommended that all researchers write a Data Management Plan (DMP). If you have not already completed a DMP as part of your funding bid (most funders now require one), then completing this during your HREC submission will allow you to anticipate and plan for any data management issues that might arise during your project and will inform some of the decisions you make on your HREC application, as well as the information you provide on your consent forms and participation information sheets.

The OU Library Research Support Team provide guidance on writing a Data Management Plan and an institutional Data Management Plan template, and can offer feedback on drafts with seven days’ notice. 

Guidance on all aspects of Research Data Management can be found on the OU Library Research Support website.