The State of Open Data 2021

Global Attitudes towards Open Data

How researchers are using open data in 2021

We were delighted to once again partner with Digital Science on the sixth annual report examining attitudes and experiences of researchers working with open data.

This year’s survey received over 4,200 responses from the global research community. It provided detailed insight into motivations, challenges, perceptions, and behaviours towards open data and builds on a strong body of evidence that confirms one of the main barriers to data sharing is lack of credit and acknowledgement.

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Three key findings

There is more concern about sharing datasets than ever before

  • In this year’s survey, the proportion of respondents indicating they have concerns about misuse of data, don’t receive enough credit or acknowledgement for sharing data, or are unsure about copyright and licensing has gone up compared to previous years.
  • 65% of respondents said they have never received credit or acknowledgement for sharing data, so it comes as no surprise that this is a key area of concern. Primary motivations for data sharing are tied to traditional measurements of impact and credit, with 19% of respondents motivated by citation of their research papers, 14% by co-authorship on papers, 11% by increased impact and visibility of research, and 11% on public benefit.

There is more familiarity and compliance with the FAIR data principles than ever before

  • Despite concerns over misuse of data and licensing, 66% of respondents had heard of the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data principles, which were established five years ago, with 28% responding that they are familiar with them, the highest number since this question was first asked in 2018. More than half of respondents (54%) thought their data was very much or somewhat compliant with the FAIR data principles, also the highest number since this question was first asked in 2018. These findings indicate that concern over sharing data could lessen in the long run if data are as accessible and reusable as possible.
  • Also, 58% of those who were familiar with the FAIR data principles, had reused their own data and 44% had reused openly accessible data shared by other research groups. This suggests that data that meets the FAIR data principles are likely to be reused.

Repositories, publishers, and institutional libraries have a key role to play in helping make data openly available

  • If respondents required help in making research data openly available, 35% relied upon repositories, 34% upon publishers, and 30% upon institutional libraries.
  • Copyright and licences continues to be the area requiring the most help, with 55% saying they feel they need support in this regard. Finding appropriate repositories (46%) and data management policies (43%) were also areas where respondents needed support. 
  • Institutions can also provide more guidance on how to comply with their policies on open data with 58% of respondents indicating they would like more direction from institutions.

Read the report >

Research Data Community


Our Research Data Community is a growing forum of advocates for the sharing of research data. It is a great place to interact with other researchers, read the latest information on research data and help advance data sharing practices.

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Research data support


Springer Nature is committed to supporting researchers in sharing research data and in receiving the credit you deserve. Find out about how we can help you to make sharing your research data faster, easier and more impactful.

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