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Research Data: Sharing Your Data

Recent News

The Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House recently released a memorandum about expanding pubic access to the results of federally funded research. In addition to scholarly publications, federal agencies are making serious efforts to increase the sharing of research data. The memorandum states that, “digitally formatted scientific data resulting from unclassified research supported wholly or in part by Federal funding should be stored and publicly accessible to search, retrieve, and analyze.” To this end, federal agencies must create a public access plan that includes the following mandates:

  • Maximize public access to data while protecting personal privacy and confidentiality, intellectual property, and balancing costs with long-term benefits;
  • Ensure that investigators create data management plans that describe strategies for long-term preservation of and access to data;
  • Costs of data management are included in proposal budgets;
  • Ensure that the merits of data management plans are properly evaluated;
  • Implement mechanisms to ensure that investigators comply with their data management plans and policies;
  • Promote deposition of data into publicly accessible repositories;
  • Encourage private and public cooperation to improve data access and interoperability;
  • Develop and standardize approaches to data citation/attribution;
  • Support training in data management best practices;
  • Assess needs and strategies for the long-term preservation of data.

Benefits of Sharing Data

Potential increased citation of source papers (Piwowar, 2007)

In a 2010 study on open data in the UK, researchers identified the following as benefits to themselves:

  1. "Increasing the efficiency of research, for example by avoiding duplication of effort, by making
    research tools, protocols and examples of good practice more readily available, by reducing
    the costs of data collection, and by promoting the adoption of open standards.
  2. Promoting scholarly rigor and enhancements to the quality of research, for example by
    making information about working methods, protocols and data more readily available for
    peer review and scrutiny, and enhancing the scope and quality of the material published in
    the scholarly record, including negative results.
  3. Enhancing visibility and scope for engagement, with opportunities for wider engagements,
    across the research community and other, broader, communities, including new possibilities
    for ‘citizen science’ and for public engagement with the processes and results of research.
  4. Enabling researchers to ask new research questions, and to address questions in new ways
    through re-use of data and other material created by other researchers, supporting the
    development of ‘data-intensive science’ through the ability to aggregate and re-analyse data
    from a wide range of sources.
  5. Enhancing collaboration and community-building, for example by providing new
    opportunities for collaboration across institutional, national and disciplinary boundaries, and
    for the sharing of knowledge and expertise.
  6. Increasing the economic and social impact of research, innovation in business and public
    services, and the return on the public investment in research, by enabling individuals and
    organizations beyond the research community to engage with a wider range of research
    resources and materials."

     

 Source: University of Edinburgh

When Should Your Data Be Shared?

Community standards and funder mandates for data sharing vary by discipline and data type. Here are a few general observations:

  • Most funding agency data sharing policies ask that data from projects be shared "within a reasonable time," understanding that what constitutes a "reasonable time" will vary from project to project.
  • Some funding agencies (listed below) have given a specific time period for when they expect data to be shared or made accessible, as a guideline to help researchers develop their policies.
  • Many funding agencies also allow for embargo periods for political/commercial/patent reasons, but they ask that these cases are explained in the data management plan.
Funding Agency Suggested Timeframe for Data Sharing
NIH No later than the acceptance for publication of main findings from final data set
NOAA 2 years after data collection   
NSF-Engineering Directorate      3 years after the end of the project or immediately following a publication; whichever comes first
NSF-Earth Sciences Division    2 years after data collection   
NSF-Ocean Sciences Division   

2 years after data collection

Adapted from: GeorgiaTech

How Can Your Data Be Shared?

Researchers have a variety of different tools and resources available to enable them share their research data. The different methods each have their own benefits and drawbacks. When deciding on methods for sharing your data, consider the benefits and drawbacks of each. 

Method  Benefit Drawback
Post data on a project website - Data are easy for others to access
- Broader dissemination of research 

- Requires maintenance by research group
- No control over who accesses data
- No ability to assign DOI or other unique identifier to dataset

Submit data to a journal or publish data paper - Data are associated with the work published on those data
- Data are shared with your peers
- Data may not result in an article but still need to be shared
- Depending on the journal, access may be restricted to researchers who have a subscription to the journal
Respond to requests for data - Retain control over who uses data - Very limited data access
- May not be acceptable method for funding agency
- Can be time-intensive
Deposit data in
Academic Commons

- Open access
- Requires no ongoing maintenance by research group
- Ability to assign DOI to dataset

- No control over who accesses data
- Limited by dataset size

Deposit data in subject-
based repository (more
about this here)
- Open access
- Requires no ongoing maintenance by research group
- Data are shared with your peers
- No control over who accesses data

Adapted from: GeorgiaTech