Figshare/Digital Science
Study results

Give Them Credit: Researcher Sentiment Favors Open Data Mandates and Data Sharing

Oct. 13, 2022
The State of Open Data Report 2022 reveals more than 70% of respondents favor policy of data sharing. This sentiment is tied to impact and recognition.

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A global annual survey that provides insights into researchers’ attitudes towards sharing research data and the future of open data mandates reveals that researchers will need more information on policies for access, sharing and reuse if they are to abide by a shift toward open data mandates.

The State of Open Data Report 2022 is the latest in the annual series, which tracks researcher sentiment and provides insights into the challenges and opportunities to support research. (Released Oct. 13, 2022.) More than 5,400 respondents participated in the 2022 survey, which is backed by Digital Science, Figshare and Springer Nature.

“What is clear from the findings of our report is that while most researchers embrace the concepts of open data and open science, they also have some reasonable misgivings about how open data policies and practices impact on them,” stated Mark Hahnel, founder and CEO of Figshare in a press release.

The report states that even though “there is a strong awareness that open data contributes to ‘some form of public benefit,’ it is the motivation of citations and increased visibility of the individual’s research that appears to be paramount.”

The number of open data mandates from funding organizations and policymakers is growing. Hahnel pointed out that the trend is particularly notable at the NIH and OSTP in the United States, and extends globally to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia, and in Europe and the UK.

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Primary findings from the 2022 report showed that:

  • There is a growing trend in researchers being in favor of data being made openly available as common practice (four out of every five researchers were in agreement with this), supported somewhat by now over 70% of respondents being required to follow a policy on data sharing.
  • However, researchers still cite a key need in helping them to share their data as being more training or information on policies for access, sharing and reuse (55%) as well as long-term storage and data management strategies (52%).
  • Credit and recognition were once again a key theme for researchers in sharing their data. Of those who had previously shared data, 66% had received some form of recognition for their efforts—most commonly via full citation in another article (41%), followed by co-authorship on a paper that had used the data.
  • Researchers are more inclined to share their research data where it can have an impact on citations (67%) and the visibility of their research (61%), rather than being motivated by public benefit or journal/publisher mandate (both 56%).

Key Themes and Findings Taken from the Report

Support for open data

  • Four out of every five respondents are in favor of research data being made openly available as common practice.
  • 74% of respondents reported sharing their data during publication.
  • Approximately one fifth of respondents reported having no concerns about sharing data openly—this proportion has been steadily growing since 2018.
  • 88% of researchers surveyed are supportive of making research articles open access (OA) as a common scholarly practice.

Motivations and benefits

  • When it comes to researchers sharing their data, citations of research papers (67%) and increased impact and visibility of papers (61%) outweigh public benefit or journal/publisher mandate (both 56%) as motivation.
  • Of those who had previously shared data, 66% had received some form of recognition for their efforts—most commonly via full citation in another article (41%) followed by co-authorship on a paper that had used the data.
  • A third of respondents indicated they had been involved in a research collaboration as a result of data they had previously shared.

Open data mandates

  • 70% of respondents were required to follow a policy on data sharing for their most recent piece of research.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents are supportive “to some extent” of a national mandate for making research data openly available. This number has been declining since 2019.
  • Just over half (52%) of respondents in the 2022 survey felt that sharing data should be a part of the requirement for awarding research grants. Again, this number has been declining since 2019.

Drawbacks

  • Only 19% of respondents believe that researchers get sufficient credit for sharing their data, while 75% say they receive too little credit.
  • Just under a quarter of respondents indicated that they had previously received support with planning, managing or sharing their research data.
  • The greatest concern among respondents is misuse of their data (35%).
  • The key needs of researchers were: They felt more training or information would improve were better understanding and definitions for policies for access, sharing and reuse (55%), as well as long-term storage and data management strategies (52%)—things that impact both ends of the research cycle. 

Key demographics of respondents:

  • Researchers from China now comprise 11% of all respondents, equal with that of the United States. China and the U.S. are the two countries with the biggest response to the survey, followed by India, Japan, Germany, Italy, UK, Canada, Brazil, France and Spain.
  • 31% of respondents were early career researchers (ECRs), while a further 31% classed themselves as senior researchers.
  • Most respondents (42%) were from medicine & life sciences; 38% from mathematics, physics and applied sciences; and 17% from humanities and social sciences (an increase of 3%).
  • Respondents were broadly categorized as: Open science advocates (32%), Open publishing advocates (26%), Cautiously pro open science (25%), Open science agnostics (11%) and Non-believers of open science (6%).

The full report can be accessed on Figshare.

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