Transparent and reproducible research are two established principles of good research practice which also extend to the data collected or produced in the course of a research project. However, currently few articles published in social science research journals cite the data used in the underlying research.

To help establish best practice we expect our grant holders to share with other researchers, through citations, the primary data and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of research, as outlined in our Research data policy.

The RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy also emphasise a need for data users to acknowledge the source of their data. The policy states that in order to recognise the intellectual contributions of researchers who generate, preserve and share key research datasets, all users of research data should acknowledge the sources of their data and abide by the terms and conditions under which they are accessed.

Benefits for the entire social science community

The benefits of data citation include:

  • the acceptance of research data as a legitimately citable contribution to the scientific record
  • results can be verified and re-purposed for future study
  • data citation metrics can be tracked, similar to publications.

An evolutionary process

Principles of data citation are at various stages of maturity and adoption among disciplines and research communities, and are already being introduced in the natural sciences.

While policy and practical challenges remain to be resolved and implemented, we expect all members of the social science community to establish data citation as normal practice.

The ESRC-funded UK Data Service (UKDS) is one data centre that is taking a pioneering approach by assigning Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to its more than 5,000 data collections. The DOI can then be used in publications to cite the underlying data, with the DOI linking to the bibliographic metadata of the data collection.



The UK Data Service can provide guidance on recommended data citation methods and practices. Please contact the following for specific enquiries: