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Library Guides

Copyright for Researchers: Open Data

This guide provides guidance on copyright matters for researchers

Using and sharing open data

There is an increasing focus in the research community on the concept of ‘open data’ for reasons of greater transparency in research, to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure that the underlying data of publicly funded research is also available for re-use. Some funding councils now mandate that your data is released openly, in addition to your research outputs. This has led to an increased emphasis on what is called ‘Research data management’ which means that issues related to how your data is collected, managed and stored long term are considered at the outset of a project and the data is managed throughout the lifetime of a project and thereafter. There is further advice about making research data available from the University of Glasgow. They also have a handy Frequently Asked Questions on the topic. 


Open data sets

Using open data

Open data sets can be shared, used and re-used providing the terms of the open licence are adhered to. Typically open data sets will have one of the six Creative Commons licences applied to them. If this is the case then you must comply with the licence requirements, which may specify that you release any of your data openly, or that you only use it for non-commercial research. However, other data sets may be in the public domain, with no copyright restrictions on their use. If you need advice about choosing a licence for your open data set then the University of Glasgow guide provides useful advice. 

Funder requirements

Your funding body may mandate you to release your underlying data set as an open data set and if they do they you should look to deposit it in WestminsterResearch. If your funder has its own data repository (such as the UK Data Archive) then you should still add a record to the WestminsterResearch which describes the dataset and include a link to the location of the data set. If you are required to do this, then there are steps you must undertake to ensure the data is cleaned and anonymised and in a suitable format for sharing openly. It is particularly important that you remove any personal data or identifying information from your data set. It will also be important to ensure you include suitable metadata to describe your dataset to help ensure others can understand and interpret it.  Links to advice and support on open data are available at the end of this section.

Finding open data

Open data sets are available from an increasing variety of sources, including from the UK government, who now release data under the Open Government Licence. This licence is equivalent to a CC-BY licence, meaning you only need to acknowledge the original creator. 

Academic open data sites

Academic sites which contain data sets include the UK Data Service which is the UK’s largest collection of UK and international social, economics and population data, including the UK census.

Geo-spatial and mapping data is available in open format from sources such as Open Street Map or the Ordnance Survey Open data products

Advice and support on open data is offered by the Open Data Institute

Further advice on open data

Credits and disclaimer

With thanks to Dr Jane Secker for authoring this guide © Jane Secker and licenced for re-use under Creative Commons  creative commons non commerical

Disclaimer: The guide in no way substitutes for formal legal advice. If you are in any doubt or require further information we recommend you consult the sources of further advice at the end of this guide.