This year’s SciDataCon’s theme was Data to Improve our World. Figshare’s Founder and CEO Mark Hahnel led a panel discussion on the state of open data in 2022 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).
In this blog we summarise three key takeaways from the panel discussion along with a link to the slides each panelist presented.
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:
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. Springer Nature has 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.
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.
About Guest Contributor: Megan Hardeman
Megan Hardeman is the Product Marketing Manager at Figshare (part of Digital Science), a repository platform for storing and sharing research outputs. Prior to that, she was a Product and Business Development Manager at Emerald Publishing.