The FSNet-Africa Data Sharing Policy

The FSNet-Africa Data Sharing Policy

1. Introduction

The Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa) supports the principle of open access data – the idea that publicly funded research data should be openly available to the maximum extent possible. At the same time, FSNet-Africa is cognisant of the fact that research data may contain sensitive information not suitable for sharing. The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines to FSNet-Africa researchers that will allow them to share the data they generate while simultaneously ensuring that sensitive information is protected.

2. Scope of the Data Sharing Policy

This policy applies to the sharing of research and evaluation data generated as part of the FSNetAfrica project by fellows, FSNet-Africa team members conducting research, and the FSNet-Africa monitoring and evaluation team.

3. Policy Statements

3.1.          Data will be made suitable for sharing

All researchers in FSNet-Africa must take great care to ensure that the data they collect is suitable for sharing. In studies where researchers do not need to collect personal data, the data can be shared without restrictions. In cases where researchers need to collect personal data from participants to achieve their research objectives, two primary measures must be taken to ensure that the data is still shareable. The first measure is to ensure that they obtain unambiguous, informed consent from participants to share the data. The second measure is to ensure that they anonymize the data to such an extent that no individual will be identifiable once the data is shared.

3.2.       FSNet-Africa research data will be made easy to discover and access by potential users

This policy will be published on FSNet-Africa’s project website, making it clear to any site visitors that the data gathered during the project will be shared and available for future research.

In addition, the metadata files for all datasets to be shared will be published on the project website and will provide sufficient information for potential new users to identify the data’s suitability for their research purposes. The metadata will contain hyperlinks allowing easy access for potential users to the data stored in the UK Data Service’s ReShare repository (currently the data service provider for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)).

3.3.         Access to shared data will be governed

All researchers will be required to deposit data related to the FSNet-Africa project into the UK Data Service’s ReShare repository within three months of the project ending as safeguarded data. Safeguarded data will be made available per the UK Data Archive’s End User License (EUL) to users who have registered for the services and who have agreed to the UK Data Service’s Terms and Conditions related to safeguarded data (available at

In addition, all potential users of a study’s data will need to obtain permission from the principal investigator of the relevant research before using the data. A function on the ReShare website allows for the selection of this option.

3.4.       FSNet-Africa researchers will have exclusive access to their data for a defined period

Data access will be restricted to the FSNet-Africa team members and researchers for the grant period’s duration, ending December 2023. All researchers will then be required to deposit all data emanating from the FSNet-Africa project in the UK Data Service’s ReShare repository within three months of the project’s end. It will therefore be available for use by other researchers by the end of March 2024.

Researchers will be allowed to apply for a delay in dissemination of the deposited data should the nature or value of the data require it, or if researchers need more time to conduct primary research/innovation on the data or publish their findings. An embargo of up to 12 months from the end of the grant may be allowed.

3.5.         Restrictions or delays to the sharing of data will be minimized

All researchers who are part of the FSNet-Africa project will be required to structure their research so that restrictions on sharing data after the project has ended are minimized. This can be done by ensuring that they anonymize all data before sharing and gain unambiguous, informed consent from participants to share the data once the project has ended.

3.6.         External users will have regulated responsibilities related to their use of the data

All external users will be required to register with the UK Data Service and accept the Service’s End User License (EUL) during the registration process. Data sharing agreements included in the EUL are outlined below:

  • External users will be allowed to make personal copies of any part of the data collections they access only for not-for-profit research, teaching, or educational development.
  • Should external users want to use the data for commercial purposes, they need to obtain an appropriate license from the rights-holder(s) in question.
  • External users will be allowed to give access to the data collections, in whole or in part, or any material derived from the data collections, only to registered End Users who have entered into an End User License and accepted the relevant conditions necessary to access and use the data collections.
  • External users will be required to keep the means of access to data (such as passwords) secure and may not disclose it to a third party.
  • External users will be required to preserve the confidentiality of information about individuals, households, and organizations in the data collections where the information is not in the public domain. This includes not attempting to identify individuals, households or organizations from information provided in the data.
  • At the end of the access period, external users will be required to destroy all copies of the data, including temporary copies, personal copies, back-ups, subsets of variables/cases, derived datasets, and electronic copies.

4. Definitions

Data: Data refers to computerized datasets and may contain quantitative data with a matrix of numbers or words and related metadata or qualitative data consisting of transcripts, thematic coding, and conceptual maps.
Data sharing: Data sharing includes the actions to provide access to and facilitate the reuse of data.
Sensitive information: Sensitive information refers to information for which unauthorised access or disclosure could result in adverse effects.
Confidential information: Confidential information refers to information about a person that has been revealed to a researcher.
Personal data: Data that can be used to identify an individual.
Informed consent: Permission granted in full knowledge of the possible consequences.
Metadata: Information that describes important aspects of a data resource. It may exist at the level of the datasets (e.g., date of collection) or the individual variable level (e.g., variable labels describing variables).
Safeguarded data: Data that is subject to the terms and conditions of the UK Data Archive’s End User License (EUL).
Principal investigator: The primary individual responsible for preparing, conducting, and administering a research grant.
Primary research: Primary research is information gathered through self-conducted research methods.

5. Authorisation

This Policy Document was approved by Professor Frans Swanepoel and Professor Claire Quinn on 30 June 30, 2021 after consultation with all project leaders.