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Norwegian researchers willing to share research data

As a first step in developing a policy on the sharing and archiving of research data, the Research Council of Norway has taken a closer look at how researchers in Norway store their data, the extent to which they share research data with colleagues and what kinds of obstacles get in the way of data sharing. The Ministry of Education and Research has assigned the Research Council the task of drawing up the policy.

The study was carried out by DAMVAD Norway, a research-based analysis consultancy company. The report may be downloaded here (in English with a summary in Norwegian).

It makes sense to let more people use research data resulting from publicly funded projects for the benefit of society,” comments Senior Adviser Siri Lader Bruhn who was in charge of the study on behalf of the Research Council.  

Photo: Thomas Keilman “The study provides greater insight into how researchers in Norway share and store their data and into the challenges these practices present. This is essential knowledge for the Research Council’s efforts to develop a strategy on the sharing and archiving of publicly funded research data,” states Ms Bruhn, who was in charge of the study on behalf of the Research Council. (Photo: Thomas Keilman)

Using others’ data

The study found significant potential for increasing the sharing of research data.

Of the 1 474 researchers surveyed, 64 per cent reported having used research data from other researchers. Close to three of four of the remaining respondents answered that they would like to do the same. Only ten per cent of the researchers who had not used research data generated from other researchers in the past three years did not wish to do so in the future.

Enhancing research

According to the report, roughly 80 per cent of the researchers agree that open access to research data enhances research, and that it is an ethical obligation of research to make research data available for validation. These are also the two most important reasons in support of open access cited by most researchers.

The study also found that 77 per cent agree that open access to research data improves education for students and new researchers and 74 per cent agree that open access promoted research collaboration.

With regards to experience with and barriers to data sharing, there were only minor differences in the responses across sectors, fields of research or years of professional experience as a researcher.

A few less sure about sharing own data

Although most researchers are in favour of using data generated by others, some remain sceptical about sharing their own data. The study finds that researchers would prefer to retain control over who gets access to their data and how the data are used.

One factor behind this concern is that it takes time to make data accessible. In addition, some scientists are worried that data sharing could compromise their possibilities for scientific publication in the future. The lack of a technical infrastructure is another obstacle mentioned in the report.

Demand for infrastructure and security

Infrastructures providing adequate storage and sharing of research data are a crucial topic in discussions on open access of research data. Eighty-five per cent of the researchers taking part in the survey reported storing their data on their own storage devices or on a server available at their institution.

The researchers need a better infrastructure for archiving and sharing data, systems for citing and crediting data as well as new guidelines, training and standards for sharing data.

“Insight into how researchers in Norway share and store their research data and into the challenges these practices pose is an essential part of the knowledge the Research Council needs to develop a policy on the sharing and archiving of publicly funded research data,” states Ms Bruhn.

The Research Council hopes to complete its policy work during the autumn of 2014.

Research data can be used more effectively

Worldwide there is a rapidly expanding amount of research data that can be used by many more people in completely new ways – provided that these data are made accessible. Also, technological developments make it possible to analyse much larger amounts of data than previously.

“The OECD has long promoted the idea of sharing research data. The EU is carrying out a comprehensive pilot under its new framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020. Norway’s Ministry of Education and Research has taken the initiative to carry out similar measures as stated in the government white paper on research. The Research Council is taking on a leading role in these efforts,” says Ms Bruhn.

“Making research data accessible will translate into a much more effective use of resources and it will facilitate better validation of research findings. This means that it will also help to improve the quality of research. The main challenge will be ensuring that data can be stored in a secure manner while remaining accessible,” says Siri Lader Bruhn. “It is also an important objective for us that the sharing of research data takes place in a manner that promotes, not inhibits, researcher careers,” she concludes.

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