Now in its seventh year, The State of Open Data survey shows huge levels of support for open data and open science practices by researchers around the world. Open data is perceived to both increase the impact of research and the number of citations, as well as providing a public benefit and fulfilling funder mandates. As the report also highlights, there is also a need for researchers to receive more support if the data is to be as equitable and as FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) as possible.
Read more about this year’s open data insights in the new report: The State of Open Data 2022.
The State of Open Data Report 2022 from Digital Science, Figshare, and Springer Nature, provides detailed survey insights into the motivations, challenges, perceptions and behaviours of researchers towards open data. It has been enhanced by the invited contributions from experts representing different stakeholders and viewpoints to provide greater understanding.
Over its seven years the survey has had over 26,000 responses from 192 countries. This year the survey received the largest number of responses since 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 5,400 responses.
There are many eye-catching figures in the survey that illustrate that the concepts of open data and open science are now widely embraced by researchers:
The biggest motivation for researchers sharing their data was to gain citations of research papers (67%), followed by increased impact and visibility of papers (61%). This was followed by the more altruistic motivation of public benefit (56%), and journal/publisher mandate (56%).
As Holly Murray of Health Data Research UK notes in her contribution to the report, “one is led to question why public benefit is less motivational than citation?” This question is particularly important as 75% of respondents believed that researchers received too little credit for sharing their data.
The embracing of the concept of open data does not mean that there are no ongoing challenges. Researchers still have some concerns about sharing data, with misuse of data the greatest concern among respondents (35%), and there is ongoing support necessary to ensure the data is equitable and as FAIR as possible.
Just under a quarter of respondents stated that they had received support with planning, managing or sharing their data. The areas where researchers felt improvement could be gained through more training or information included: better understanding and definitions for policies for access, sharing and reuse (55%); and long-term storage and data management strategies (52%).
There can also be significant differences in the needs and requirements of the different fields. As the contribution to the report on data sharing in the humanities noted, not only are humanities journals less likely to require open data or to include data availability statements with the article, but almost half of humanities researchers didn’t think the term “research data” applied to their work.
The 2022 survey is a more demographically diverse dataset than previous years.
The countries that account for the largest proportion of survey responses are China and the US. China rose from 3% in 2021 to 11% in 2022, with the US also accounting for 11% of the survey responses. As the contribution to the report from the Computer Network Information Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CNIC, CAS) notes, whilst there is more work to be done to make ‘openness’ the norm in China, the increase in policy and training is meaning that more researchers are turning to open data. In the US, new mandates from the National Institutes for Health and the Office of Science and Technology Policy also means that US researchers will need to be more engaged with open data than ever before.
At a continental level Asia accounted for the largest number of responses (38%) followed by Europe (33%). Open data has been a strong focus in Europe for a number of years, with consistently high levels of engagement with the survey. North America has been steadily declining in engagement with the survey whereas Asia has consistently increased.
The extent to which open data has been embraced is encouraging, but researchers still need a lot of support, and they need to be asking their institutions what support is available to them.
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