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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Organisations setting up legal support functions might have to reconsider their organisational structure.
- 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.