Accessibility statement

How to share, discover and reuse COVID-19 related data

In the fight against COVID-19, research is being undertaken at an unprecedented rate in order to produce research results as fast as possible. To accelerate and amplify impact, there is a need for timely and open sharing of COVID-19 related research findings and data. Many governments and funders have recognised that open research data is a key component of the response to the pandemic, with many requiring immediate open access to COVID-19 outputs.

This guidance is aimed at helping researchers to share their COVID-19 related data in a timely and responsible manner.

For help with other aspects of research data management, such as data management plans, please visit the RDM web pages or email the Open Research team

1. Manage ethical and legal obligations

While timely and open sharing of research data can have a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19, sharing data responsibly and in accordance with legal and ethical obligations remains imperative.

Ethical approval

The prioritisation of COVID-19 related research applications and expedited ethical review are some of the steps taken by some funders, health authorities and agencies to make it easier for researchers to proceed with COVID-19 related research while still meeting their ethical obligations.

For more information, please refer to:

The University’s Code of practice and principles for good ethical governance "articulates a set of principles and standards to help identify and address ethical considerations, and sets out the procedures for conducting ethical review". Ethical review will be necessary for "research or research-related activity involving humans". 

Researchers requiring assistance with ethical approval should contact a member of their Departmental or Subject Ethics Committee in the first instance.

Data protection

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 does not prevent research data from being archived and shared for research use by others, as long as the data protection principles are met. 

To protect data subjects and enable data sharing:

  • data containing identifiable information should be anonymised, both direct and indirect identifiers removed, where possible/appropriate.
  • participant consent should include permission for data sharing, including for anonymised data.
  • access to data should be as open as possible and as closed as necessary. Where data cannot be shared openly, consideration should be given to using a data sharing agreement to determine who can access the data and under what conditions. 

Researchers requiring advice on data protection compliance should contact

2. Deposit with a data repository

To facilitate data quality control, timely sharing and sustained access, research data should be deposited in a data repository.

Some funders require the deposit of research data in specified data repositories. Researchers must follow the requirements of their funder.

As a first choice, deposit data with a domain or subject specific repository. Specialised services dealing with discipline-specific data are best placed to manage and provide appropriate access to your data for the long-term. 

If no domain specific repository exists, deposit in a general-purpose repository.

  • Examples of general-purpose repositories include Zenodo, Figshare and Dryad. Generalist repositories are often unable to accept datasets containing personal data.
  • Research Data York is the University of York's data deposit service. It is provided to enable University research data to be stored for the long-term, to be discovered and accessed.

The University needs to know where your research data are deposited. Researchers should therefore record information about their deposited datasets in Pure.

3. Make your data discoverable, accessible and reusable

It is critical in the current COVID-19 crisis is to have research data that is easy to discover, access and reuse.

Licence your data

In most cases, licensing your data can help clarify the terms of its use. 

The DCC guide on How to licence research data provides comprehensive information on why and how to use licences. An information guide from CREATe and the University of Glasgow provides guidance on Choosing a licence for research data. The following tools may also help you choose the most appropriate licence for your data:

Most funders require research data to be released (and therefore licensed) with as few restrictions as possible.

Document your data

Good documentation helps to ensure that shared research data is understandable, verifiable, and reusable. A recent joint statement on the Duty to Document underlines how crucial it is, especially during this time of rapid and unprecedented decision making.

Research data that is made available to others should be accompanied by sufficient documentation to provide the contextual information necessary for others to be able to understand and reuse it. As a minimum you should include a README file. See the web page Documentation and metadata for additional information.

Link your data to your publications

Data access statements, also referred to as data availability statements, are used in publications to describe where data directly supporting the publication can be found and under what conditions they can be accessed.

Data access statements are required for most publications that are publicly-funded. Encourage others to cite your data by including a preferred citation in your data access statement.

See the web page Data citation for guidance on what to include in your citation and for example statements.

4. Find and use COVID-19 related data

In response to the current outbreak, an increasing number of repositories and aggregate services are gathering and providing access to COVID-19 related datasets. Where possible, repositories are making COVID-19 data collections open access. However, you should always check and comply with the terms and conditions (and licence) specified when reusing published data.

Datasets used or repurposed for your own research should be cited. The same principles of attribution and credit apply to research data as they do to other research outputs such as journal articles or books. See the web page Data citation for guidance.

Acknowledgement: With thanks to the Scholarly Communications Management team at Imperial College London for permitting reuse of content from: COVID-19: How to share, discover and reuse COVID-19 related data and code