Hoard­ers: re­searchers in An­glo­sphere are poor shar­ers

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - Si­mon.baker@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Re­searchers in the US, the UK, Canada and Aus­tralia are less likely to share re­search data fol­low­ing a project than their coun­ter­parts in most con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean coun­tries, a new study has sug­gested.

The sur­vey of al­most 7,700 re­searchers world­wide found that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) rou­tinely share their data fol­low­ing a project, ei­ther as sup­ple­men­tary in­for­ma­tion to a jour­nal pa­per or through a data repos­i­tory.

How­ever, the re­sults from the Springer Na­ture sur­vey show sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tions in the like­li­hood of re­searchers shar­ing data, ac­cord­ing to coun­try and dis­ci­pline.

Among the 17 coun­tries where more than 100 peo­ple re­sponded to the sur­vey, re­searchers in Canada were the least likely to make data avail­able, with just 50 per cent say­ing they shared it through sup­ple­men­tary files, and/or a repos­i­tory. This was fol­lowed by the US and Aus­tralia (both 55 per cent), Por­tu­gal (56 per cent) and the UK (58 per cent).

But aca­demics in other Euro­pean coun­tries were more likely to say that they gen­er­ally shared data, with Poland hav­ing the great­est share (76 per cent) fol­lowed by Ger­many ( 75 per cent) and Switzerland (69 per cent).

There were also vari­a­tions across dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines.

Bi­o­log­i­cal sciences had the high­est share of re­spon­dents who said they gen­er­ally shared data (75 per cent), fol­lowed by earth sciences ( 68 per cent), med­i­cal sciences (61 per cent) and phys­i­cal sciences (59 per cent).

De­spite the vari­a­tions across coun­tries and by sub­ject, a large pro­por­tion of re­searchers world­wide be­lieved it should be pos­si­ble to find the data gen­er­ated by re­search. When asked to rate from one to 10 how im­por­tant it was that data were dis­cov­er­able, three-quar­ters (76 per cent) gave a score of six or more while a quar­ter gave a rat­ing of 10.

The main bar­rier iden­ti­fied by re­searchers for shar­ing data was be­ing able to or­gan­ise it “in a pre­sentable and use­ful way”, which was high­lighted by al­most half of re­spon­dents to the sur­vey (46 per cent). Other chal­lenges were re­searchers be­ing un­sure about copy­right is­sues (37 per cent), a lack of knowl­edge about which repos­i­tory to use to share the data (33 per cent) and a lack of time (26 per cent).

Over­all, the re­port says that there should be more sup­port and ed­u­ca­tion on data man­age­ment for re­searchers, par­tic­u­larly for early ca­reer aca­demics, while sim­pler and quicker ways for schol­ars to share data were also needed.

Grace Baynes, vice-pres­i­dent for data and new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment in Springer Na­ture’s Open Re­search Group, said that although the sur­vey con­firmed that re­searchers were “con­vinced” of the im­por­tance of shar­ing data, there was still work to do to make it nor­mal prac­tice.

“To their credit, US and UK fun­ders have moved early to en­cour­age and re­quire data shar­ing through poli­cies, pi­lots and in­fra­struc­ture, and yet re­searchers in the UK and US re­port lower per­cent­ages of data shar­ing than the global av­er­age,” she said. “While fun­der man­dates con­tinue to be an es­sen­tial fac­tor, our find­ings sug­gest that pol­icy must be cou­pled with greater sup­port and ed­u­ca­tion for re­searchers, and faster, eas­ier routes to shar­ing data op­ti­mally.

“This chal­lenge re­quires the whole re­search com­mu­nity’s con­certed at­ten­tion and needs col­lab­o­ra­tive so­lu­tions from fun­ders, in­sti­tu­tions, li­braries, pub­lish­ers and re­searchers them­selves.”

A clear view the main bar­rier to shar­ing data was be­ing able to or­gan­ise it ‘in a pre­sentable and use­ful way’

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