Five Things to Know: Nature Article Advocates for Open Data Sharing in Science

Research data is the hard-earned prize of a researcher, their golden egg. It comes after long hours of hypothesizing, collection and analysis, which can make just handing it off to a stranger a bit difficult.

Why give away something you have worked so hard for?

The state of science today is divided: Some believe all data should be publicly available to promote collaboration, while others believe it is safest to hold onto their findings to protect themselves from competitors who may use their work as the foundation for a new, more exciting study.

Nature recently published an article advocating for openly sharing scientific data. Here are five ways in which the Nature team makes their case:

Data sharing can catalyze new collaborations.

Openly sharing data provides access to numerous researchers who may be interested in a collaboration. Whether your potential collaborators are in the same field studying something similar or in a different field aiming to try something new, it may be worth connecting to build a bigger and better project and outcome.

Sharing generates goodwill among researchers.

“Right now, it’s about competition; sharing data is about collaboration,” says Luiza Bengtsson, a biochemist from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin.

Original researchers can still get credit for their work.

Data sets are becoming easier to cite, and are often accompanied by a digital object identifier (DOI) that makes them independently discoverable. This citability enables researchers to get credit for their data sets and to list their results on job, tenure and promotion applications.

It’s a way to give back to the people who fund your research.

Taxpayers fund a lot of research, but often times they do not have the opportunity to see where that money goes. If scientists share their data publicly, they are giving back valuable information to those who supported them and their research. This can help to improve public engagement with data.

Sharing data can increase the recognition of your work and accelerate its impact

The most obvious downside of sharing data is that more people will have access to it to do what they please, but you could also see this as an upside. Greater accessibility could mean wider recognition for your work and could increase the impact of your findings.

“We [not only receive] more citations, but also TV stations and magazines and donors know what we’re doing here,” says Daniel Piotto, a forest ecologist at the Federal University of Southern Bahia in Ilhéus, Brazil. “It has a global impact. That’s super cool.”

What do you think?

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