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Deliverable on legal challenges in cross-border research is published


The success of EOSC largely depends on its capability to enable cross-border research. Cross-border research poses challenges not only regarding the technical solutions but also regarding the legal frameworks under which cross-border research sharing is to happen.

EOSC-Nordic has investigated use cases to study the types of legal issues hindering cross-border research collaboration, particularly cross-border data sharing. Legal issues have been discussed from different points of view: the research support personnel at research institutions, legal experts, and other administrative personnel working at universities and research centers.

The following key findings and recommendations have been highlighted:

  1. Harmonisation of data protection regulations in the different countries through soft laws like European-wide codes of conduct, but also via practical how-to-do guidelines at the Member State level can facilitate cross-border research, reduce subjective interpretation of the legislation and assist institutions in making decisions and steering their processes towards common ways of sharing data. As EOSC aims to build a Web of FAIR data, this aspect is highly relevant and should be discussed at the EOSC Steering Board and EOSC Association level.
  2. The European data protection regulation has solved a range of privacy issues and handling of personal data. Still, it does not address the research needs for cross-border collaboration on sensitive data. The sensitive-data topic deserves dedicated discussions and further work.
  3. The data-owning institutions appear hesitant to enter into cross-border collaborations. EOSC should offer templates for data sharing agreements that can guide institutions towards secure data sharing to improve the situation.
  4. A common understanding of licensing and recommendations, as well as guidelines for using licenses, is needed. EOSC should provide a list of recommended license conditions and which license types fulfil the requirements, as well as information about the compatibility between different license types.
  5. Facilitation of the possibility to share, preserve, and maintain metadata information is one of the first important steps for sharing data and, as such, deserves attention.
  6. Increasing awareness about cross-border research legal issues is the first step to improving the current situation. The EOSC Association should support the RPOs by providing clear guidelines on communicating about EOSC and legal-related matters at the institutional level.
  7. In organisations where the institution is committed to EOSC/OS policies, specific support functions, including legal support, are built, and resources are allocated. The EOSC Partnership should boost the engagement of research-performing organisations by presenting an appealing value proposition. Doing so could encourage institutions to make appropriate funding levels available to support open science and data sharing activities.
  8. Providing some national support services and best practice benchmarking could speed up the establishment/adoption of OS/EOSC support services at RPOs. The EOSC Mandated Organisations and national structures can play a role in making an inventory of the most common support services for OS/EOSC and making it available for all the RPOs.
  9. Legal services and guidelines supporting researchers on how university-owned data could be opened; on how to access and maintain data saved in a national/international service after the employment relationship is interrupted (academics often change in their institutions); on how to comply with GDPR or Open Access requirements; on how to deal with intellectual property requirements are the most needed. These are only a few examples of the services RPOs would benefit from.
  10. There is a need to raise awareness that legal issues are not only related to contracts and agreements. To solve legal issues related to well-functioning access to data, expertise is needed in several fields of legislation like copyright, competition legislation, state aid rules, etc., and procurement legislation if services are considered. There is a need for educating specialists who can support researchers in their everyday work, with the final aim of reducing subjective interpretation of legal recommendations.
  11. It is often difficult to find a department or a person in charge of all the legal issues. Because knowledge and responsibility are distributed among different actors, there is a need for a clear definition of the roles, responsibilities, and processes at the EU, national, RPO, and individual levels when it comes to legal support.
  12. There is a need to bridge the gap between technology-oriented researchers and legal staff, which can be challenging. A researcher may ask a specific question without revealing the whole picture, leading to bad advice being given unless the right follow-up questions are asked.
  13. Organisations setting up legal support functions might have to reconsider their organisational structure.
  14. EOSC should consider that small RPOs cannot afford to hire dedicated personnel for OS and legal support. Providing training or consultancy services in a centralised way could be a very valuable service to support small institutions.

Read the deliverable on our Knowledge Hub