Sharing data from new experiments allows scientific researchers to build on each other’s work quickly, as they avoid the kind of duplication that can slow down the scientific process.
Data-sharing is good for science as a whole, but for individual scientists, the pressure to publish and the potential patents and royalties that come with novel findings provide a disincentive to open data-sharing.
A recent survey, with results published this month in the open-access online journal PLOS ONE, asked more than 1,000 life-sciences researchers what they thought worked in encouraging behaviors of posting data sets online and making biological materials available to other researchers.
It found National Institutes of Health policies, including those that require data-sharing plans as part of many grant applications, were the most effective of those surveyed.
“The NIH is basically, by tying the data-sharing to funding, able to get everybody to share,” said Drexel University health policy professor Genevieve Pham-Kanter, the study’s author.
Less effective were data disclosure policies at specific journals, which only a third of survey respondents said were influential in encouraging data sharing.
About half of the respondents said norms in their respective fields, and the behaviors of advisers, were influential in encouraging data-sharing.
Dr. David Chen, a urologic oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center who serves as a peer reviewer for academic journals, said the findings, as well as the advent of more open-access journals, are part of a larger movement in science.
“I think it reflects that the culture in science in general is expecting people to share data more, that the expectation exists that there should be more open disclosure,” Chen said.