Researchers warm to the idea of making their data sets open and available

Study shows the research community is warming to open data but some uncertainty remains.

Eight in ten researchers now value data citation more than or as much as article citation, a study has found.

The finding was the result of an study by online academia repository Figshare, which surveyed 2,000 researchers to access the global landscape around open data and sharing practices.

The results highlight the extent of awareness around open data, the incentives around its use, and perspectives researchers have about making their own research data open.

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For the majority of respondents, open data is already a reality. Approximately three quarters said they have made their research data openly available at some point, and a similar number were aware of data sets that are open to access, reuse, repurpose and redistribute.

Researchers in the social sciences demonstrated the highest level of awareness by subject area, while researchers in Asia demonstrated the least familiarity.

Awareness of open data transcends age and career progression, with principal investigators and professors consistently responding similarly to PhD students and post-doctoral fellows.

All career levels admitted to uncertainty and gaps in their knowledge, and were hungry for more information.

However, less than half of respondents said they are confident in how to cite a secondary research dataset.

And of the respondents who have already made their data open, 60% were unsure about the licensing conditions under which they have already shared their data, and thus the extent to which it can be accessed or reused.

The study found that researchers are also uncertain who will meet the costs of making data open, with more than half saying they would welcome more guidance on compliance with their funder’s policy.

Of the respondents who hadn’t made any data open, 90% said they will ‘definitely consider’ or ‘might consider’ doing so in the future.

>See also: London reaps the rewards of leading the world in open data

“Today’s findings show we have reached a key inflection point in the research community,” said Daniel Hook, CEO or Digital Science. “Nearly three-quarters of all researchers, whether by mandate or not, state they have made their data sets open and available, and value a data citation as much as an article citation. This clearly demonstrates researchers consider sharing data sets as core to the furthering of research.

“It is equally clear from the results of the survey that researchers also feel the need for greater support in understanding what is becoming a highly complex and nuanced activity. Understanding copyright, licensing, contractual and ethical concerns around data sharing are key to participating appropriately in the open community.

“We need to provide the right education to young academics, and provide clear guidance to more established colleagues to ensure a culture change can take place, and that confusion does not prevail.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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