[CODATA-international] Data sharing from policy to practice: moving beyond national to global

Asha CODATA asha at codata.org
Mon Nov 4 11:29:55 EST 2019

*This post was written by Rebecca Lawrence, Managing Director of F1000. She
was a session organiser
<https://conference.codata.org/CODATA_2019/sessions/89/> at the CODATA 2019
Conference in Beijing, China *

Scholarly research is a global enterprise, often requiring researchers to
collaborate with relevant experts across the world. The data generated
during research is a valuable commodity, and researchers are increasingly
required to share the data created during their research endeavour.

However, institutional and funder data sharing policies are typically
developed at organisational or national level. Meanwhile, researchers are
often funded by several research agencies, working as part of a
collaboration and/or with a myriad of data-related outputs.  This makes
adherence to the different data sharing policies complex, burdensome and
time consuming.  Furthermore, the practical ability to share data – in
reputable repositories, with adequate metadata, in usable formats, at
economic cost – can be onerous and in some case prohibitive for
researchers.  There also remain real cultural, social and economic barriers
for many researchers to share their research data openly and in a timely

The session at CODATA Beijing brought together experts representing many
different parts of the world to discuss how we can work better together
towards harmonisation of policies and incentives for researchers to share
their data so that we can fully realise the benefits of making research
data more available. Panelists were Jean-Claude Burgelman (European
Commission), Rebecca Lawrence (F1000; chair), Xiaoxuan Li (Chinese Academy
of Sciences), Erik Schultes (Dutch Techcentre for Life Sciences), Daisy
Selematsela (University of South Africa (UNISA) Library and Information
Services) and Nick Shockey (SPARC).

There was considerable discussion around making sure that we don’t repeat
the mistakes of the road towards Open Access (OA) but rather that we learn
from it. With data sharing, there was agreement that it is especially
important that it is built on a Commons and not allowed to be built by a
small number of commercial closed entities. This is especially important
given that ownership of data can be far more powerful and restrictive than
ownership/copyright of publications. There was also agreement that much of
the slow progress towards OA has been caused by confusing and lenient
policies. With data sharing we have the opportunity to ensure early on that
clear and stringent policies are put in place to ensure that a
middle-ground does not emerge along a similar vein to the ‘hybrid’ approach
now prevalent in article publishing.

There was also much discussion about the significant, and growing, gap in
data sharing practices between the global north and the global south. We
need to not just talk about the positives that data sharing can bring but
also (and maybe especially importantly in the global south) about the risks
of doing nothing. We need to consider carefully the impact on equity and
inclusion *before* we build data sharing systems, not after when it is too
late to make a tangible difference. This is especially important when
considering the business model for these infrastructures to ensure that
approaches don’t develop that will cause further imbalance and inequity.

The importance of ensuring that researchers not only understand what data
sharing is about but also why it is important and the potential positive
impact it can have on them and their research should not be underestimated.
We need to debunk the many myths about it and recognise that this process
is going to take considerable time and effort to achieve.

Having said this, a significant shift towards greater data sharing will
only come about if the rewards and incentives system starts to fully
recognise the value of such activities and shifts away from the traditional
sole focus on publications in high-impact venues. However, during such a
shift, we also need to be alert to potential unintended negative
consequences of any new system or approach.

Such a shift in incentives can be achieved not only by dangling ‘carrots’
but also by reducing researcher burden.  For example, the increasing use of
automated workflows and data capture was highlighted as potentially
creating an incentive for researchers to share their data by removing the
considerable time burden in capturing and curating the data and associated
methods, whilst also increasing the likely level of FAIR-compliance of the
resulting data.

There was a sense from the panel that like the early Internet, the current
infrastructures being built globally to support data sharing are going to
become another revolutionary global infrastructure that can ultimately be
used by everyone. Like then, we don’t yet know what this infrastructure may
become or what it may enable. But once we can demonstrate the possibilities
and potential brought about by open data policies and implementation by
working through a few pilots on a multinational scale, this will mobilise
the international community very quickly, and help us to bring about the
crucial alignment needed around core elements of data sharing policy and

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*October 2019 Publications*
the CODATA Data Science Journal <https://datascience.codata.org/> *

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Asha Law | Program Assistant, CODATA | http://www.codata.org

E-Mail: asha at codata.org
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