Government funding agencies in the United States, Europe and Australia require researchers to devise plans for data management and, in some cases, data sharing; some private funders also require them. Many journals, including Nature , have adopted policies that encourage or require authors to make data available. A plethora of open-access repositories host data sets from almost all fields, and scientists have been publicly criticized by colleagues for not sharing data.
Science is moving towards a greater openness, in terms of not just data but also publications, computer code and workflows. Yet researchers who are learning to navigate the open-science arena face a thicket of thorny issues. Many scientists — especially early-career researchers who are building a publication record — worry that sharing their data too early could lead to their getting scooped by a competitor.
They must also decide whether to spend valuable time curating and sharing data sets. Those who want to make their data more open face a bewildering array of options on where and how to share it. They might also lack necessary expertise in data curation and metadata information that describes a data set.
Such expertise can help to ensure that the data they plan to share are useful for others. However, opening up data can yield benefits: it can catalyse new collaborations, increase confidence in findings and generate goodwill among researchers. Data sets are becoming easier to cite, and are often accompanied by a digital object identifier DOI that makes them independently discoverable. This citability enables researchers to get credit for their data sets and to list them on job, tenure and promotion applications.
And there are also the less tangible satisfactions of contributing to the scientific enterprise and giving back something of value to the taxpayers who support basic research. A growing number of websites provide tools, information and training regarding requirements and practices for open data.
The journal Scientific Data recommends a number of general and discipline-specific data repositories. Altmetric : An online platform that tracks data on the impact of research. Jupyter Notebook : An open-source web app for creating and sharing scientific data and text. The New England Journal of Medicine has published advice from researchers on sharing clinical data responsibly M. Mello et al. Before the digital era, sharing data typically required sending them to researchers on request. Now, data can be shared instantly with anyone who has an Internet connection.
Its Zenodo repository, which hosts data sets, computer code and other resources, and appends them with DOIs, is set to form part of the European Open Science Cloud, an upcoming Europe-wide virtual infrastructure for managing scientific data. Sabina Leonelli, a philosopher who studies open science at the University of Exeter, UK, says that the project, which will bring together existing national and institutional repositories, might be the most ambitious of its type, although exactly how scientists will interact with it remains to be determined. In the United States, the National Center for Biotechnology Information has been a trailblazer: it launched an open genomics repository called GenBank in the early s that now serves around 30 terabytes of data each day to researchers worldwide.
In , NASA enacted a formal policy to share its data publicly, and other space agencies have followed suit. As a result, the data from some publicly funded Earth-observation satellites are free and open. In astronomy, in which a few large and expensive telescopes provide much more data than a single researcher could analyse, open data is also the norm. But not all fields are equal when it comes to data sharing. Neuroscience and biomedicine experiments, for example, often produce only limited amounts of data, says Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
In such cases, it can make sense, Gallant says, to get a return on that investment in the form of several publications, before releasing the data to others. And scooping does happen. Gallant, who considers himself a pioneer of open data, was surprised to be on the receiving end of criticism in July for not sharing data. Data sharing can benefit not just the recipients of data, but also the sharers.
A study of such practices in neuroscience revealed that sharers who used data released by others had larger sample sizes in their studies — achieved by using those open data — than did non-sharing scientists 3. Papers that were based on openly shared data were published in journals of equal impact as often as were those based on non-shared data. Crowther offered everyone who shared at least a certain volume of data with his forest initiative the chance to be a co-author of a study that he and a colleague led. Published in Science in , the paper used more than , data points from 44 countries to determine that forests with more tree species are more productive 4.
Ecologist Daniel Piotto gained insights into forests worldwide through data sharing. For Piotto, who met Crowther when they were both at Yale, sharing forest data has led to better recognition for his research group. When he is listed as an author on papers in high-impact journals such as Nature or Science , he and his colleagues receive a slew of press enquiries. But they still have trouble selling the idea to some colleagues. Support for open science is growing among researchers and across disciplines, says Carol Tenopir, an information scientist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
In the past decade, she has led three surveys of more than 2, scientists worldwide, who were asked about their data-sharing practices as part of the Data Observation Network for Earth project, which is funded by the US National Science Foundation. Researchers are now more aware of good data practice than when she started the surveys, she says. Certain fields have developed a culture of openness. By contrast, psychologists and educational researchers share their data less often, although more than half say that they are willing to make at least some of their data available.
But fewer than half of the scientists surveyed actually deposit data in open-access repositories. A major hindrance is concern about the legality of sharing data, especially when the research subjects are people, Tenopir has found. Researchers should also consider ethical issues before making data available on, for instance, rural villages or local environmental factors in low-income countries, which could compromise the privacy or well-being of residents, adds Leonelli. But there are ways to share data gathered from people safely and legally.
For many psychology studies, such as those that involve people answering surveys, de-identifying data can be straightforward, says Simine Vazire, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis. For data that could be used to identify even anonymous study participants, there are techniques to perturb data sets that ensure that useful information is still accessible. Another option is to use a secure repository that restricts access to qualified requesters. For a previous project, she failed to do so, and was therefore unable to share the data. Without the protection of a dedicated archive, she ended up losing the data.
To avoid that happening again, Tenopir includes her data-sharing plans in proposals for experiments and archives data in Dryad, a non-profit digital repository run by scientific institutions and publishers. Inadequate resources and training also inhibit data sharing, says Alexa McCray, a researcher in knowledge representation at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Chancellor's year end message to the community. Woman's aviation career takes flight with WGU. Two B. IT graduates take different career paths.
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