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Report

Open Data: The Researcher Perspective

Combining results from bibliometric analyses, a global sample of researcher opinions and case-study interviews, a new report reveals that although the benefits of open research data are well known, in practice, confusion remains within the researcher community around when and how to share research data.

Author
Stephane Berghmans, Helena Cousijn, Gemma Deakin, Ingeborg Meijer, Adrian Mulligan, Andrew Plume, Sarah de Rijcke, Alex Rushforth, Clifford Tatum, Thed van Leeuwen, Ludo Waltman.
Date
12 April 2017

The report, Open Data: The Researcher Perspective, is the result of a year-long, co-conducted study between Elsevier, the information analytics company specialising in science and health, and the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), part of Leiden University, the Netherlands.

The study is based on a complementary methods approach consisting of a quantitative analysis of bibliometric and publication data, a global survey of 1,200 researchers and three case studies including in-depth interviews with key individuals involved in data collection, analysis and deposition in the fields of soil science, human genetics and digital humanities.

Report findings include:

  • Researchers acknowledge the benefits of open data, but data sharing practices are still limited. Reasons mentioned include: not enough training in data sharing, sharing data is not associated with credit or reward, research data management and privacy issues, proprietary aspects and ethics.
     
  • Data sharing mandates by funders (or publishers) are not considered a driver by researchers to increase their data sharing practices; 64% of researchers believe they own the data they generated for their research.
     
  • Public data sharing primarily occurs through the current publishing system; less than 15% of researchers share data in a data repository. When researchers do share their data directly, most (>80%) share with direct collaborators.
     
  • 34% of researchers surveyed do not publish data at all. Those who do share data still use more traditional processes, such as through publication of data aggregated into tables and annexes.
     
  • Analysis of publication in data journals reveals scattered practices: dedicated data journals are a new and small-scale phenomenon; the popularity is increasing quickly.
     
  • There is an almost even split between researchers who believe there are no clear standards for citing published data (45%) and those who believe there are clear standards (41%).
     
  • Data-sharing practices depend on the field: there is no general approach. In intensive data-sharing fields, data sharing practice is embedded into the research design and execution.