SciDataCon 2022: three takeaways from the State of Open Data 2021 panel discussion

We were delighted to participate in SciDataCon 2022, the theme of which was Data to Improve our World.
Published in Research Data
SciDataCon 2022: three takeaways from the State of Open Data 2021 panel discussion

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Figshare’s Founder and CEO Mark Hahnel led a panel discussion on the state of open data and how data sharing has been affected by the pandemic together with Natasha Simons (Associate Director, Data & Services, Australian Research Data Commons), Graham Smith (Research Data Manager, Springer Nature) and Prof Ginny Barbour (Co-Lead, Office for Scholarly Communications, Queensland University of Technology). 

Below are three key takeaways from the panel discussion along with a link to the slides each panelist presented.

Funders should be the most responsible for implementing change in data sharing policies

One of the key takeaways from the State of Open Data 2021 survey and report was that repositories, publishers, and institutional libraries all have a key role to play in helping make data openly available. Natasha’s presentation touched on the fact that there is a shared responsibility between them but there are few harmonies. 

However, all panelists — and the majority of the audience of which there were over 100 people — agreed that funders should be the most responsible for implementing change in data sharing policies. As the financial source and the initial touchpoint for most research projects, funders have the unique opportunity to encourage and enforce open data policies on funded researchers. Several funders have already implemented initiatives since the 2021 report came out, including:

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science
NASA’s TOPS (Transform to Open Science) 
FASEB and the NIH’s DataWorks! Prize

The challenge with data sharing is now quality, not quantity

As Natasha stated in her presentation, there are now over one million papers with a data availability statement but the most common statement is ‘data available on request’. A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology analyzed 3,556 journal articles and found that 96% contained data availability statements, 42% said that the data are available on reasonable request, and of the 1,792 authors who responded to the request for data sharing, 6.8% provided the data. This disparity could be the result of poor preparation of the data for sharing early on, a lack of understanding of the requirements for sharing data, a lack of time, or something else.

In his presentation, Graham discussed the role publishers can play in implementing data support practices to help combat these issues. He mentioned specifically enhanced data deposition, reviewer access, and checks to ensure data is as FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) as possible. In the case of Springer Nature, they have partnered with Figshare to provide authors with a place to store their data, making it accessible for reuse without having to request it from the author.

Researchers are trying to do the right thing when it comes to data sharing but there are systemic problems to overcome

The 2021 survey found that researchers were more aware of good open data practices than ever before — there was more familiarity and compliance with the FAIR data principles, for example — but there are problems to overcome in order for researchers to implement better practices. 

In Ginny’s presentation, she said that systemic problems with infrastructure, processes, support, and credit for data sharing and integrity were getting in the way of researchers doing the right thing in making their data openly available. The failure of these systems leads to high profile cases that shape public opinion that research can’t be trusted, leading to misinformation. This, again, points to the need for a concerted effort to support researchers in their open data practices — something funders, publishers, and institutions can help support.

The slides from all panel presenters are available on Figshare.

Don't forget to have your say

The State of Open Data 2022 survey is open until July 18, 2022. If you’re a researcher, we’d love to hear about your thoughts and practices towards sharing data. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete and the results, alongside the report, will be made openly available later in the year. Click here to complete the survey.

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