The Benefits of Sharing Data – Why it’s worth the effort

HySpeed Computing explores the concepts and ideas behind community data sharing.

Sharing data with the greater community is not without effort. The data must be organized and thoroughly documented, a repository for hosting the data must be identified and maintained, and a chain of custody needs to be established to answer questions that may arise and to ensure data longevity. So you may ask why make the effort? What are the benefits? Here we list some of the top advantages of community data sharing.

Expanded impact. Sharing data will increase the number of citations for publications related to the data. In research, particularly academic research, publications are the primary currency for disseminating knowledge, establishing expertise in a given field of study, advancing career status, and obtaining grant funding. In some scientific disciplines it is common practice to publish the data in conjunction with the research methods and results; however, in most cases this is not the norm. Sharing data, either as an addendum to a publication or in a separate repository, provides more resources than the publication alone, leading to both a greater impact on the community and an improved return on citations.

Education. Sharing data provides a valuable resource for educating others. When learning something new there is nothing like a hands-on experience to help assimilate the knowledge; hence the reason most classes, seminars and training sessions involve a project or exercise. However, most of us can recall a situation where it seemed like the hardest aspect of the assignment was actually finding the data. Although this is a valuable lesson, and since data doesn’t always exist just because we think it should, this is also an indication that not enough quality data is readily available for educational purposes. Sharing data resources is thus an important component of improved opportunities for education.

Innovation. Sharing data is the foundation for continued innovation. Once collected or created for a given project, or series of projects, data has served an important role and fulfilled its initially conceived use. Beyond this there is almost certainly potential for new ideas and analysis methods to be developed based on this same data. These ideas can then spark new collaborations and projects, which can lead to yet more advances. Sharing data thereby represents a building block for enabling further innovation.

Archiving. Sharing data establishes a legacy for its continued utility. In some situations, such as many federally funded grants in the U.S., it is a requirement that researchers develop and execute a data management plan, which includes long-term plans for data storage and availability. Sharing data can thus be an important component of meeting grant requirements. Sharing also serves a role for establishing data longevity, providing a valuable resource for future research.

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