PLOS

This blog was written by Iain Hrynaszkiewicz, Publisher, Open Research, PLOS.

We’ve been working to identify important problems faced by researchers in the practice of open research. And, to deepen understanding of researchers’ priorities with regards to sharing research data, we’ve launched a new study. If you are a researcher residing in the US or Europe who has shared or reused research data please take a few minutes to take part in the survey.

The results of the survey will also help determine if and how well researchers’ needs are met by existing tools and services for sharing research data, and inform future PLOS initiatives and partnerships – beyond the publication of open access journals.

Researchers’ experiences and attitudes about sharing research data are arguably already well studied. The annual State of Open Data reports from Digital Science, and Carol Tenopir’s research are valuable, recurring examples. And a bibliography of studies we’ve read, or re-read, recently is included below [1–24].

So, why do we need another survey?

Considering the results of numerous studies, researchers’ concerns about misuse and scooping are amongst the most common concerns about, or barriers to, data sharing. These concerns are followed, in their frequency, by the more practical concerns about copyright and licensing (ownership) and the time and effort required to make research (data) openly available.

In principle there are numerous solutions available for some of the problems, barriers and concerns represented by these findings – from repositories, institutional research support, training programmes, to journal policies and procedures. Yet in practice — to give one example of assumed good practice in open research — today only about a fifth of researchers use repositories to share data supporting published papers.

Having reviewed this prior research and having spoken with different groups of researchers ourselves in the last few months, we’ve concluded:

  • There is considerable evidence for various cultural and practical concerns with sharing of research data, and growing evidence of how sharing and reusing data can benefit research, the economy and researchers’ careers. But, 
  • we are less certain about how important each of these problems are, and if and how well existing tools, products, and services help solve these problems.

Data sharing, research data, and open data are very important at PLOS — reflected in our long-standing policies on data sharing. But there is more that we can do to enable research data sharing and reuse, which may help realise more of its benefits. We expect that this study will help identify researchers’ priorities, which in turn will guide our priorities for new initiatives.

We’re very grateful for any time researchers can lend to completing the survey and, naturally, we plan to share data from the survey publicly in the future.

  1. Eynden VVD, Knight G, Vlad A, Radler B, Tenopir C, Leon D, et al. Survey of Wellcome researchers and their attitudes to open research. Figshare. 2016; doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.4055448.v1
  2. Tenopir C, Christian L, Allard S, Borycz J. Research data sharing: practices and attitudes of geophysicists. Earth and Space Science. 2018;5: 891–902. doi:10.1029/2018EA000461
  3. Tenopir C, Allard S, Douglass K, Aydinoglu AU, Wu L, Read E, et al. Data sharing by scientists: practices and perceptions. PLoS ONE. 2011;6: e21101. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021101
  4. Tenopir C, Rice NM, Allard S, Baird L, Borycz J, Christian L, et al. Data sharing, management, use, and reuse: Practices and perceptions of scientists worldwide. PLoS ONE. 2020;15: e0229003. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0229003
  5. Tenopir C, Dalton ED, Allard S, Frame M, Pjesivac I, Birch B, et al. Changes in Data Sharing and Data Reuse Practices and Perceptions among Scientists Worldwide. PLoS ONE. 2015;10: e0134826. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134826
  6. Borghi JA, Van Gulick AE. Data management and sharing in neuroimaging: Practices and perceptions of MRI researchers. PLoS ONE. 2018;13: e0200562. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0200562
  7. Houtkoop BL, Chambers C, Macleod M, Bishop DVM, Nichols TE, Wagenmakers E-J. Data sharing in psychology: A survey on barriers and preconditions. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science. 2018;1: 251524591775188. doi:10.1177/2515245917751886
  8. Rathi VK, Strait KM, Gross CP, Hrynaszkiewicz I, Joffe S, Krumholz HM, et al. Predictors of clinical trial data sharing: exploratory analysis of a cross-sectional survey. Trials. 2014;15: 384. doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-384
  9. Rathi V, Dzara K, Gross CP, Hrynaszkiewicz I, Joffe S, Krumholz HM, et al. Clinical trial data sharing among trialists: a cross-sectional survey. BMJ. 2012;345: e7570.
  10. Schmidt B, Gemeinholzer B, Treloar A. Open data in global environmental research: the belmont forum’s open data survey. PLoS ONE. 2016;11: e0146695. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0146695
  11. Gregory K, Groth P, Scharnhorst A, Wyatt S. Lost or found? discovering data needed for research. Harvard Data Science Review. 2020; doi:10.1162/99608f92.e38165eb
  12. Faniel IM, Frank RD, Yakel E. Context from the data reuser’s point of view. Journal of Documentation. 2019;75: 1274–1297. doi:10.1108/JD-08-2018-0133
  13. Open Data: the researcher perspective – survey and case studies [Internet]. 4 Apr 2017 [cited 15 Nov 2018]. Available: https://data.mendeley.com/datasets/bwrnfb4bvh/1
  14. Allagnat L, Allin K, Baynes G, Hrynaszkiewicz I, Lucraft M. Challenges and Opportunities for Data Sharing in Japan. Figshare. 2019; doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.7999451.v1
  15. Lucraft M, Allin K, Baynes G, Sakellaropoulou R. Challenges and Opportunities for Data Sharing in China. Figshare. 2019; doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.7326605.v1
  16. Stuart D, Baynes G, Hrynaszkiewicz I, Allin K, Penny D, Lucraft M, et al. Whitepaper: Practical challenges for researchers in data sharing [Internet]. 2018. Available: https://figshare.com/articles/Whitepaper_Practical_challenges_for_researchers_in_data_sharing/5975011
  17. Science D, Fane B, Ayris P, Hahnel M, Hrynaszkiewicz I, Baynes G, et al. The State of Open Data Report 2019. Digital Science. 2019; doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.9980783.v1
  18. Science D, Hahnel M, Fane B, Treadway J, Baynes G, Wilkinson R, et al. The State of Open Data Report 2018. 2018;
  19. Science D, Hahnel M, Treadway J, Fane B, Kiley R, Peters D, et al. The State of Open Data Report 2017. 2017;
  20. Federer LM, Lu Y-L, Joubert DJ, Welsh J, Brandys B. Biomedical data sharing and reuse: attitudes and practices of clinical and scientific research staff. PLoS ONE. 2015;10: e0129506. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129506
  21. Perrier L, Blondal E, MacDonald H. The views, perspectives, and experiences of academic researchers with data sharing and reuse: A meta-synthesis. PLoS ONE. 2020;15: e0229182. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0229182
  22. Linek SB, Fecher B, Friesike S, Hebing M. Data sharing as social dilemma: Influence of the researcher’s personality. PLoS ONE. 2017;12: e0183216. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183216
  23. Oushy MH, Palacios R, Holden AEC, Ramirez AG, Gallion KJ, O’Connell MA. To share or not to share? A survey of biomedical researchers in the U.S. southwest, an ethnically diverse region. PLoS ONE. 2015;10: e0138239. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138239
  24. Wallis JC, Rolando E, Borgman CL. If we share data, will anyone use them? Data sharing and reuse in the long tail of science and technology. PLoS ONE. 2013;8: e67332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067332



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