Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Responsible Conduct of Research in Australia

Greetings from the Great Hall of the Austrlaian National University in Canberra, where a Research Data Workshop on the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). There has been recent controversy over the distribution of climate change data. ANDS has been set up to help Australian researchers collect even larger collections of data online, so it is timely to have a look at the ethics of this. There will be a second workshop tomorrow on the services which ANDS provides.

ANDS has produced a short guide "Research data policy and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research". This suggests institutions review policies on: Intellectual property (covering copyright, moral rights, patent), Data management (Storage, Retention, Disposal, Access), Conflict of interest, Collaboration and contractual agreements, Ethics and privacy and Compliance. Many of these issues are covered in my lecture notes on Metadata and Electronic Data Management.

At question time I asked if ANDS would require organisations contributing data to indicate if they comply with the code. The reason for this is that ANDS, by referring people to data sources take on an ethical and legal responsibility for what is done with that data. Even if there is no black letter law requiring the use of the code, the fact that it exists is likely to be taken into account by a court or other body assign the actions of researchers. Given that ANDS has endorsed the code, it would be difficult for ANDS to claim that the code does not apply to them. It would not be possible to say that the data ANDS refers people to is not ANDS data and they have no responsibility for it: by referring people to data ANDS takes on obligations. One way to discharge those obligations might be to record if the organisation providing the data complies to the code or another code. Data uses could then make an informed decision as to if they should use the data.

The code itself (Reference No: R39 508kbytes PDF, 41 pages) was published in 2007 by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), with help from the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia. There is also a Summary

Synopsis of publication:

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research guides institutions and researchers in responsible research practices and promotes integrity in research for researchers. The Code shows how to manage breaches of the Code and allegations of research misconduct, how to manage research data and materials, how to publish and disseminate research findings, including proper attribution of authorship, how to conduct effective peer review and how to manage conflicts of interest. It also explains the responsibilities and rights of researchers if they witness research misconduct.

Developed jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia, the Code has broad relevance across all research disciplines. It replaces the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice (1997).

Compliance with the Code is a prerequisite for receipt of National Health and Medical Research Council funding. ...

From: Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, NHMRC, 2007

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Australian National Data Service

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra where Ian Barnes is giving a presentation on the Australian National Data Service to my e-commerce students. ANDS aims to make the data behind research in Australia accessible online. The services provided are both for human readers to search for data and then machine to machine web services to access the data.

One interesting question is why scientists would share their data. One reason would be that this will tend to result in the scientist's work being more widely cited and thus promoting their career. A less obvious reason is that by making the data available will help ensure the data is preserved for long term use, including by the original creator. Another reason is that this may be required by funding bodies to prevent academic fraud.

Interestingly some of the initial data in the ANDS system is research data about humpback whales near the location for the proposed north west multi-billion dollar gas platform.

The service provides a google map interface using the geotagging information in the metadata. The service uses a different metadata standard to the ISO19115/19139 standard which is used for some repositories, but there is provision for conversion of the data. The service uses the same OAI interface as used for electronic document repositories. The service also provides persistent identifiers.

The service has a harvesting process to search registered data sources to find new collections of data to index. The service uses RIF-CS based on ISO2146 to represent data in XML format.

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