February 7, 2017, by Stefan Rennick-Egglestone

Sharing research data – benefits, not burdens

UK Research Councils typically require researchers to share their research data externally, in line with a common set of principles established in 2011, but with precise details about what should be shared being defined within individual sets of funder regulations.

Effective sharing of research data does require effort and advance planning, and it can be easy for compliance with funder regulations to feel like an additional burden on the already-busy life of a researcher.

However, as a set of slides produced at the University of Cambridge discuss, there are some potential benefits to researchers of sharing their data for others to use, including

  • gaining more exposure for your work
  • influencing public policy or professional practice
  • making contact with new collaborators to support new research work

As a digital research specialist working in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, I’ve been looking into the advantages researchers might gain from sharing their data. It seems to me that producing an interesting dataset, which is publicised effectively, and hence used by others, might lead to a high-quality Impact Case Study admissible for REF 2021. How best to publicise datasets, and how to track usage, are open questions; if you are a Nottingham researcher, and would like to work out how to publicise your dataset, then I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve recently learned about Nature Scientific Data, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets. It seems to me that acceptance of a dataset in this journal, or others, would significantly benefit the reputation of the researchers who generated it, and lead to a lot more exposure for the data.

I’d be particularly interested in helping Nottingham researchers get their work into this kind of venue, so if this appeals to you, and especially if you work in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences or affiliated institutes, then please get in touch!

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