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The reality of data sharing behaviour: do researchers share their data as promised?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Over 90% of authors who indicated willingness to share data did not do so when contacted.
  • Barriers to data sharing included an absence of informed consent or ethical approval to share data; having moved on from the project or institution; and misplaced data.

Journals often require authors to submit a data sharing statement indicating the availability of raw data following an article’s publication. However, a Nature News article summarising the results of a recent study published in Journal of Clinical Epidemiology highlights discrepancies between such statements and actual data sharing behaviour.

Mirko Gabelica et al analysed over 3,500 manuscripts published by 333 open access journals in January 2019. Among the articles indicating that data would be available on request, over 90% of authors did not share their data when contacted. Only 14% of authors responded to data sharing requests and only around 7% provided usable data.

Only 14% of authors responded to data sharing requests and only around 7% provided usable data.

In many cases, no specific barriers to data sharing were cited, and authors were either unresponsive or unwilling to share data with the researchers. When specific barriers were identified, these included, but were not limited to:

  • absence of informed consent or ethical approval to share data
  • the author having moved on from the project or institution
  • misplaced data.

These findings lend further weight to calls from some quarters, and planned requirements from funders such as the National Institutes of Health, for clear data sharing plans at the time of research inception.

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Do you create specific data sharing plans at research inception?

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