Hello from the Research Data Alliance 11th Plenary meeting in Berlin. Iain, Varsha, Rebecca, Mat and others in the research data team are RDA regulars, but this has been my first meeting. It was a great introduction to how the RDA community collaborates to help researchers manage, share and discover research data.
It’s been an exciting week all round for the research data team at Springer Nature. On Wednesday we published a new white paper, Practical Challenges for Researchers in Data Sharing. On Thursday, we launched our optional Research Data Support service, which we have been piloting since April last year. Rebecca has been speaking on a panel at the Research Data Access and Preservation Summit in Chicago this week, and the RDA working group Iain co-chairs on data policy standardisation has been making great progress.
The whitepaper (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5975011) and its underlying survey data (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5971387) are openly available under a Creative Commons license in the Figshare repository.
It is based on a survey we ran last year, asking researchers about data sharing at the point of publishing a research article. We wanted to understand how much data sharing is actually happening, how and where researchers are sharing. We also asked about what researchers are finding challenging in sharing data, and where they need help. Over 7,700 responses from researchers at various career stages, working across different fields and geographies, make this one of the largest surveys on the subject of research data.
If you are interested in what we found, check out our infographic and press release for a summary of the key findings. The Whitepaper has already been viewed over 6700 times and downloaded over 2000 times. We hope people will find it useful, and will build on the data and findings we have shared.
Encouragingly, three-quarters (76%) of researchers rated the importance of making their data discoverable highly. When submitting to a journal, 63% of respondents shared data files either as supplementary information, in a repository, or both. Of those respondents, a slightly lower proportion of researchers share data in a repository (41%) than share as supplementary information files (42%). While sharing data as supplementary information is better than not sharing data at all, it is a sub-optimal solution. Data deposited in a repository makes it more findable and accessible, providing data-specific metadata and persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers, DOIs).
Part of the reason researchers are not sharing in repositories by default may be because they need help and information to know where to share, and how. In every region, ‘Organising data in a presentable and useful way’ was the most often stated reason for not sharing data (46% of respondents). Other common challenges were : ‘Unsure about copyright and licensing’ - 37%; ‘Not knowing which repository to use’ - 33%; ‘Lack of time to deposit data’ - 26%. Our findings suggest that policy must be coupled with greater support and education for researchers, and faster, easier routes to sharing data optimally.
We want to help researchers adopt open approaches to their data wherever possible. Helping researchers overcome these challenges was what led us to develop our Research Data Support service. Run by professional Research Data Editors, curators and archivists including Rebecca and Graham Smith, the service provides secure and private submission of data files, meta data curation and publisher-managed release of datasets.
We have also recently extended the service to institutions, funders and libraries who want to support best practice data deposit by their researchers, or complement in-house research data management teams. Scholarly Communications Offices and libraries have a key role to play in supporting researchers. In many research institutions, libraries and research data management teams are now offering expert advice, support and infrastructure. Researchers in these institutions are fortunate to have such support. Our goal is to complement these services.
For data sharing in repositories to become the default, we need to move the needle using multiple approaches that work for researchers at their point of need. Institutions, funders, libraries, publishers, and collaborative organisations like RDA all have a role to play. By working together, we can unlock the huge potential of research data to improve our knowledge, the global economy, our health and environment.