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What encourages researchers to share?


I’ve written a few times about the importance of sharing ones research findings, and about trends such as Open Notebook Science, whereby researchers share both the successes and failures in their research.

This matters because sharing helps to make the entire research community smarter than it currently is.  Suffice to say, sharing ones work is not the default behavior in the research community, which makes a recent report, commissioned by Knowledge Exchange, so interesting.

The qualitative study set out to explore what might encourage researchers to share the progress of their research with their peers.  The study used interviews with 22 researchers derived from five teams with a strong culture of data sharing.

The study identified six different kinds of data sharing:

      private management sharingcollaborative sharingpeer exchangesharing for transparent governancecommunity sharingpublic sharing

What motivates people to share

A number of factors were found to influence whether researchers shared their data or not.  These included:

  • whether data sharing was a crucial part of the research process
  • whether they could derive direct career benefits through the greater visibility and networking  that comes via sharing data
  • whether data sharing is a cultural norm within the researchers social network
  • whether the network of funders, publishers and other external stakeholders impose an expectation of sharing

The study also found that there were distinct differences of sharing culture depending upon the age of the researcher.  It suggests that early training in the value of sharing would produce some excellent dividends.

If this training focused on the use of shared data in research methods, this would be particularly valuable in embedding sharing as the cultural norm.

This could then be built upon by some more formal policies that both provide a collective voice and help to clarify the norms of the research community.  This also helps to support researchers in situations where sharing might not appear to benefit them directly.

The report then goes on to make a number of recommendations for the various stakeholders involved in research, from the funding community through publishers and data repositories.

It’s a nice introduction to what is sure to be an increasingly pressing topic over the next few years.  You can download it (for free of course) here.

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