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Horizon 2020 – funding opportunity and a sensible approach to Open Data

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The launch of Horizon 2020 is probably the most important event in the academic world of the last few months (from an organizational point of view, of course – I’m not comparing it to the supernova blast in M82 or the discovery of the next species of river dolphin). Not only because of the huge amount of money that is going to be spent (€15 billion in the first two years only!), but also because of the strict Open Access policy enforcement. Application calls are open right now and probably some of you have already considered them. The program includes calls both for individual researchers, at any stage of career, and for organizations. What is more, anyone can join, regardless of nationality.

The most interesting part of the program for me is the Pilot on Open Research Data. The goal of this pilot is to examine the possibilities of enforcing the Open Data policy. It introduces Data Management Plans (DMP) (for some participants it will be obligatory, for others optional). Participants are also obligated to deposit their data in repositories. They are allowed to keep some of it closed to third parties, butthese cases have to be explained it in their DMP, citing for example privacy (which might occur, for instance, in qualitative social sciences) or copyright issues. Otherwise data has to be free for everyone. This is a wise approach and I think it will help the European Union to elaborate a universal policy for opening scientific data in full.

Which, in turn, may pose a major challenge, with regards to a potential collision between Open Data and privacy issues, as anticipated recently by Sean Mackinnon, who wrote:

“I’m particularly primed for this issue because my own research often intersects with clinical psychology. I ask questions about things like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use and conflict with romantic partners. The data collected in many of my studies has the potential to seriously harm the reputation – and potentially the mental health – of participants if linked to their identity by a malicious person. This said, I believe in the value of open data sharing. In this post, I’m going to discuss a few core issues as it pertains to de-identification – that is, ensuring the anonymity of participants in an openly shared dataset. (…) Risk of re-identification is never zero. Especially when data are shared openly online, there will always be a risk for participants. Making sure participants are fully informed about the risks involved during the consent process is essential.”

And this is not so easy! It is naïve to expect the participants to freely share information on about their depressions, anxieties or sexual disorders if there is even the slightest chance of them being recognized and identified. This problem applies not only to humanities, but to all research that collect data about humans. (especially genetics, which has faced the same issue already).

That is why I hope that the Data Management Plans will become Open Data themselves, and help all of us deal with aforementioned problems. Facing privacy issues is quite common when opening data in some fields of research work, but I believe that this pilot program will accelerate the efforts by scientists to find solutions, both through law and in practice.

What else should you know about H2020 before submitting your application?
All publications based on research supported by the program have to be Open Access. You are allowed to publish in toll access journals, but the peer-reviewed version of your paper has to be available for free no later than 6 months (or 12 for HSS) after the first publication, so it has to be a journal that allows Green Open Access. Gold Open Access is also supported and you are allowed to spend grant money on publication fees in Open Access journals and on other costs that help to make your work widely accessible.

Finally, have you heard that the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research introduced an Open Access policy for its program for young researchers? It also includes an obligation to disclose data. Open Access and especially Open Data is nowadays a growing trend.

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