2. Why share data?
The UK Data Archive describes data as a valuable resource. The value of data has been known for many years, but this has been rarely recognised. The value of research outputs has centred on publications, with data the raw material that informs these. The costs of producing data and the effort involved are now, though, being more widely acknowledged and there is encouragement to share these valuable resources to increase their value to researchers generally.
The reasons why data should be shared fall into three areas.
- Demonstrates research integrity, as there is transparency and accountability in the production of the data being released
- Encourages research enquiry and debate
- Promotes innovation and potential new data uses
- Encourages the improvement of research methods
- Prevents research fraud
- Enables peer scrutiny of the research findings, validating the work carried out
- Increases the visibility of the research
- Provides credit for the creation of the data in its own right
- Can lead to new collaborations
- Produces a public record of the research
- Avoids duplication of effort in data creation
- Provides resources for use in teaching and learning
- Meets funder requirements
- Ensures data can be re-visited for future research
- Maximises return on research investment
- Preparing data for sharing also prepares it well for preservation
The developing trend to share data has been driven in part by funders making this a requirement to demonstrate a better return on investment, but has also equally been informed by a wider trend toward openness in research, particularly where its creation is publicly-funded. In their response to a Royal Society investigation into opening up scientific information (Science as an Open Enterprise, 2012) the British Academy expanded the debate to all areas of research (see their 'response' here).
“We believe that in principle, and across all subjects, data collected and held by government and public bodies should be made available to other researchers in order that they can assess, test and challenge research findings, or conduct additional research using these data.”
In the same response the view as also taken that complete openness may not be appropriate. There are a number of reasons why data might not be shared, some stronger than others. Key reasons are:
- The institution holding the data may wish to commercially exploit the data produced. Where there is a likelihood for commercialisation this needs to be checked with the local Enterprise Office.
- The data may contain information about people who have not given their consent for the data to be shared. Application of the local data protection policy will inform how this issue should be addressed.
- Sharing of data should only be undertaken if the researcher has the appropriate rights to share.
Other reasons, which reflect concerns more than specific barriers, are listed on the attached document from the UK Data Archive
List the top 5 reasons/benefits why you would look to share your data? Then list any concerns you have about sharing your data, and any barriers you feel will prevent you from sharing.
It is important that as part of any data management plan that you set out your plans to share or not share, and the reasons why you have taken this decision. This will demonstrate transparency in your research and avoid misinterpretation of your choice.
Review your concerns/barriers against the UKDA list (see file below), which highlight how these can be addressed.
Research Councils UK has recognised specifically the value of sharing publicly-funded research data through its Common Principles on Data. Whilst strongly supporting the sharing of data, the 5th principle additionally recognises the right of the researcher to retain exclusive access to the data for a period of time following its creation to support publication of research findings – recognition itself of the development effort.