Sharing data

Sharing data is an integral part of the scholarly communication process. Historically, data were included directly within published papers, but as datasets became larger this became impractical in many disciplines. Now, it is possible to share data in a reliable and trustworthy fashion through dedicated research data archives.

Having archived your data, there are several reasons why you should consider sharing them with others:

  • By sharing data, you can demonstrate the integrity of your research by allowing others to verify and validate your work.
  • Sharing data makes them more discoverable by potential new collaborators.
  • Published articles whose underlying data are also published often receive more citations than those whose data are kept private – see examples from bioinformatics and astrophysics.
  • Other researchers might be able to use your data in new and surprising ways, such as large-scale meta-analyses.
  • If your data are reused by others, you can use this as evidence of impact, helping your career progression.
  • By sharing data, you can demonstrate compliance with the relevant parts of University and funder policies.

The system of sharing data through archives provides a lot of flexibility, so it is no longer the case that data must either be completely public or completely private:

  • You may be able to delay sharing your data for a short, defined time to allow further papers to be published or for patents to be filed.
  • By imposing a suitable set of access restrictions and conditions, you may be able to share sensitive data without putting people, vulnerable species, places or commercial interests at risk.
  • By releasing your data under a licence, you can influence how others use and remix your data.

Your ability to share data is affected by choices you make early in your project, so it is important that you bear this in mind when planning your data management and gathering your data.