Springer Nature recently released a white paper, Five Essential Factors for Data Sharing, synthesising their findings from surveys conducted over the last two years investigating researchers’ attitudes towards data sharing. The authors highlight five areas for improvement to drive good practice in data sharing: clear policy, better credit, explicit funding, practical help, and training and education.
1. Clear policy
Unambiguous and specific data management and sharing requirements set out by funders, institutions, publishers and research communities would help to shift researchers’ behaviour, encouraging greater data sharing.
The surveys established that journal policies had more of an impact on data sharing practices than those of funders or institutions. However, one analysis of The BMJ’s research archive highlighted that even for journals implementing strong data sharing policies, compliance may be low. This suggests that researchers may need greater support to understand what is expected of them.
2. Better credit
Formal recognition for data sharing, through data citations, authorship of articles reusing shared data, or recognition of data sharing in researcher assessments would help to demonstrate the value of data sharing to researchers.
The State of Open Data Report 2018 asked “Do you think researchers currently get sufficient credit for sharing research data?”: 58% of respondents answered “No”, while only 9% said “Yes”. Increased recognition could incentivise data sharing.
3. Explicit funding
The availability of dedicated funding is crucial to enable compliance with data management, sharing and publishing policies.
Although several funders have initiated projects to facilitate data sharing, few explicitly make funds available for these purposes, causing concern for researchers. In The State of Open Data Report 2018, 27% of researchers did not know how they would fund making their research data openly available.
4. Practical help
Researchers require practical information and guidance about how to manage and share their data.
Across surveys, researchers were more likely to share data as supplementary information when submitting a publication rather than in a repository: the more findable and reusable option. The white paper highlights that Springer Nature has produced a Recommended Repositories list to assist researchers and offers free guidance on data sharing through their Research Data Helpdesk.
5. Training and education
Building the skills of researchers and addressing common concerns would help to enhance researchers’ confidence in data sharing.
In The State of Open Data Report 2018, 65% of researchers lacked sufficient training, support and advice regarding data management. Medical researchers in particular highlighted concerns surrounding copyright and licensing, identifying appropriate repositories, and patient confidentiality. Researchers might benefit from further training in all of these areas.
While the uptake of data sharing is ever-increasing, this white paper emphasises that further action is needed to encourage and facilitate data sharing. This will require collaboration between multiple stakeholders, and we’re excited to see how the data sharing landscape will evolve to meet these challenges.