How and why researchers share data (and why they don't)

November 3, 2014 Liz Ferguson

I am pleased to present here results from a survey Wiley conducted into researcher views of data sharing.  Earlier this year, we contacted 90,000 researchers across a wide array of disciplines and received more than 2,250 responses from individuals engaged in active research programs. Leading up to the survey, we conducted a series of interviews with researchers to ensure a representative list of views about data sharing was provided in the survey questionnaire. The results therefore reflect the breadth of ways in which researchers say they share their data publicly rather than a formal community or publisher-driven definition.

The headline results are clearly displayed in the infographic below created by my colleague, Laura Fedoryk, so I will comment on just a few.

First, of the 52% of respondents who said they had made their data publicly available, the largest proportion (67%) did so via supplementary material in journals.  That subset more or less tallies with the average take-up we see at Wiley of the supporting information facility (c. 30%), but this varies considerably by discipline, and of course not everything in supporting information is data. Other ways in which researchers reported making data publicly available, such as in repositories (which are better suited to long term data management and preservation), are dwarfed by this proportion.

A second area of interest is the factors that most strongly motivated researchers to make their data publicly available. I am particularly encouraged to see the emerging impact of journal requirements in increasing public access to data. One outstanding example of this is the successful introduction and enforcement of a data sharing policy at Molecular Ecology, which has seen more than 1,000 data packages deposited in Dryad alone since 2011.  Our publishing partners in the American Geophysical Union, the British Ecological Society, the Society for the Study of Evolution, the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, and others have also taken leadership positions in this respect. There is also more work we can all do (and which you will see Wiley doing) to help meet another primary motivation behind data sharing– increasing the impact and visibility of one’s research.

Last, the reasons researchers gave for not making their data publicly available are familiar. More than 40% of respondents told us there were IP or confidentiality concerns around their data that prevented sharing. In some cases this is undoubtedly true (this response was more marked in clinical medicine, for example), but in others it may reflect an individual sense of ownership of data rather than true IP or confidentiality issues. That is not to diminish those concerns, but opportunities remain to demonstrate the positive impact of data sharing to address this as well as fears of being scooped; to make it easier for researchers to archive their data in appropriate places; and for all involved in the scholarly ecosystem, including publishers, to drive a culture of data sharing. A Perspective just published in PLoS Biology provides a series of recommendations for publishers, and there will be future posts here about both the survey and how we intend to encourage more public sharing and archiving of research data.Researcher Data Insights -- Infographic FINAL REVISED (2)

About the Author

VP, Editorial Development, Wiley // Liz Ferguson is Publishing Solutions Director in the Research Innovations group within Wiley's Global Research division.

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