Data sharing, what are the incentives?

Data sharing is a hot topic amongst the scientific community and in some instances sharing research data is a requirement/stipulation of your funding body.

In our research data management survey (results to be released shortly) we asked our researchers who could access their research data and the majority of respondents shared their data with their collaborators, with minimal sharing of data outside of the University. See chart below:

Guest blog on data sharing

This guest blog post is from Dr Marianne Bamkin, Research communications assistant and JoRD Project Officer, from the Centre for Research Communications, University of Nottingham. She explains what JoRD is and describes some of the feedback they have had from researchers on the issue of data sharing.

The Journal Research Data Policy Bank (JoRD) project is a JISC funded initiative looking into the feasibility of a service that will collate and summarise journal policies on Research Data in order to provide researchers, managers of research data and other stakeholders with an easy source of reference to understand and comply with these policies. The information held in JoRD would be freely accessible to researchers, publishers and any other interested parties who may want to know whether a journal insists on the inclusion of data in the article, or as supplementary materials to the article, or if the data should be in a certain format or stored in a certain repository. The feasibility study is researching a number of aspects of such a service, f or instance, various business models for funding the service, what publishers and researchers would want from such a service, and most importantly, whether the service would be actively used.

From feedback gained through a combination of a focus group, workshop, online questionnaire and interviews it appears that researchers would be very interested in using the resource to choose where to publish and to understand the requirements of journals. The online questionnaire was answered by researchers from all over the globe, representing each academic discipline and 36 different subjects. The predominant opinion that shone through was that all researchers shared their data with someone, although it may only be a research partner, and the vast majority of researchers believed that in today’s internet society data should be freely shared and openly accessed and they were prepared to share their data. That opinion was also reflected by the participants of a focus group.

There are qualifications to sharing, the most important to researchers being that of attribution and intellectual property. If they had spent many years gathering the data, they want that effort recognised, not necessarily rewarded, money was not a personal concern, but the acknowledgement for their hard work. Another caveat was expressed that truly raw data are not shareable: quantitative data may have errors, qualitative data may be indecipherable, and data may be confidential and sensitive. Data would therefore need a certain level of processing before sharing. Researchers also felt that there were certain optimum times when they would be willing to share data, for example, doctoral research is required to be unique so any data shared before the thesis is submitted may be used to reach the same conclusions by another researcher, preventing the first researcher’s work to be unique. Publishing the data after the doctoral award would be no problem.

However, the researchers’ list of the benefits of sharing data outweighed the problems. They felt that sharing data was expected in current society, leading to scientific openness and accountability. The researchers benefit by having increased access to data, by finding storage for data that would make it future-proof and would also allow greater opportunity for collaboration. Science benefits because shared data increases research efficiency, promotes knowledge, allows data to be verified and studies to be replicated, which in turn increases the quality of Science. Looking at it from that point of view, sharing data is a win : win situation. I am just going to go and upload some data…

For more information on the JoRD project and our findings so far please visit our blog on: http://jordproject.wordpress.com/