Policy Statement on Data Sharing in IES Research Centers
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is committed to advancing education research through the sharing of scientific data collected through its grant-funded research programs. Data sharing provides opportunities for other researchers to review, confirm or challenge study findings, which is an important aspect of the scientific process. In addition, data sharing can enhance scientific inquiry through a variety of other analytic activities, including the use of shared data to: test alternative theories or hypotheses; explore different sets of research questions than those targeted by the original researchers; combine data from multiple sources to provide potential new insights and areas of inquiry; and/or conduct methodological studies to advance education research methods and statistical analyses.
The purpose of this document is to describe IES policy on sharing research data collected through grants funded by its two research centers: the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research. Starting with the release of the FY2013 Request for Applications (RFA), which is anticipated in early 2012, researchers applying for Goal Four Scale-Up Evaluation grants under competitions 84.305A for Education Research or 84.324A for Special Education Research are expected to include data sharing plans in their applications. For the purposes referred to in this policy statement, final research data are the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to document and support research findings.1 For most studies, an electronic file will constitute the final research data. This data set will include both raw data and derived variables, which will be fully described in accompanying documentation.
Specific instructions for including the data sharing plan in applications will be addressed in the Request for Applications for these two grant competitions. All Goal Four Scale-Up Evaluation applications must include a plan that describes the data to be shared, the method of sharing (e.g., through the Principal Investigator or data archive), the written documentation that will accompany the data, the plan for preventing disclosure of personally identifiable information, and the timeline and costs for data sharing.
Researchers funded by IES must be committed to protecting the rights and privacy of human subjects at all times. Data sharing must not compromise this commitment. IES recognizes that data sharing may be complicated or limited by institutional policies, local Institutional Review Board (IRB) rules, as well as state and Federal laws and regulations that address issues of the rights and privacy of human subjects. It is the responsibility of the researchers to develop a data sharing plan that protects the rights of study participants and confidentiality of the data, as required by their IRB and state and Federal laws and regulations. Data that are to be shared should be free of identifiers that would allow linkages to individuals participating in the research as well as other elements that could lead to deductive disclosure of the individual study participants. If researchers believe that full data sharing is not possible, they must provide a written rationale.
IES expects timely release of shared data files following the completion of a study. In general, IES anticipates that the data will be shared no later than the acceptance for publication of the main findings from the final study dataset. This implies that in most cases, the final dataset may not be completed and prepared for data sharing until after the grant has been completed. Nonetheless, when the Principal Investigator and the authorized institutional official sign the cover page of the 84.305A Education Research or 84.324A Special Education Research grant application, they will be assuring compliance with IES policy on data sharing as well as other policies and regulations governing research awards.
Researchers may include the cost of data sharing in their grant application budget requests. This can include the costs of preparing and archiving the data to be shared, and preparing the data documentation.
Peer review panels will not rate the data sharing plan in their scoring of the scientific merit of the application. IES staff will be responsible for overseeing the data sharing policy and for assessing the appropriateness and adequacy of the data sharing plan and associated costs.
Additional information on data sharing will be provided in a Data Sharing Implementation Guide. This guide is still in development, but it will be placed on the IES website when finalized. The FY 2013 Request for Applications for Education Research (84.305A) and Special Education Research (84.324A) will also provide additional information on preparing and submitting a data sharing plan.
1 Final research data does not mean summary statistics or tables, but rather the factual information on which summary statistics and tables are based. For the purposes of this policy, final research data do not include laboratory notebooks, partial datasets, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer review reports, or communications with colleagues.