Make your data count

To share or not to share?

Share logoSharing your data

  • can help you build your academic track record: sharing data can facilitate its rediscovery and its preservation as technology becomes obsolete. Many studies have shown a correlation between archived or open access data to copies of published articles and citation impact – see, for example, ‘Sharing detailed research data is associated with increased citation rate’, Piowar, et al (2007).
  • enables data to be validated and tested, improving the scientific record.
  • means that data can be reused for scientific and educational purposes.
  • meets funding body requirements obliging award holders to share their data. This helps to avoid duplication of effort, and to cut unnecessary costs.
  • is in the public interest, where research data has been publicly funded – in line with the OECD principles and guidelines for access to research data from public funding.

When not to share

There are some legitimate reasons for wanting to restrict public access to your research data:

  • you intend to make a patent application, and must avoid prior disclosure. Before sharing, seek advice from Isis Innovation.
  • your research data includes confidential data pertaining to human subjects – see the Ethical Issues and Data Protection pages for more information.
  • your research data are confidential because of the arrangement your research group has made with the commercial partner sponsoring your research.

Often, sensitive and confidential data can be shared ethically if informed consent for data sharing has been given, or by anonymising research data. See the UK Data Archive’s Consent and Ethics section for more information and advice.

A third option: share, but not immediately

Many researchers are wary of sharing data because of the fear of being scooped – that is, of someone else publishing conclusions based on their data before they have a chance to. It is generally recognised that researchers have a right to a period of privileged access to their data, but this is rarely a reason to keep things under wraps indefinitely.

A common solution is to share data via an archive that allows it to be embargoed for a fixed period of time after deposit. This usually means that a metadata record for the data will be available (allowing it to be cited in related publications), but the data itself will not be made publicly accessible until the embargo has expired.