Research data: policies and behaviours

Last week (18th November), I attended an evening event organised by the Research Information Network at the Royal College of Physicians.

Image by Ian-S

There were three excellent speakers. Andrew Young, Director of Research from John Moores University, Carole Goble, School of Computer Science, University of Manachester and Kevin Ashley, Director of the Digital Curation Centre. The panel was chaired by Professor John Wood, Secretary-General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

The consensus was that researchers are currently reluctant to share data and in order to change this culture, we need to be aware of the risks and rewards in doing so. Carole Goble coined the wonderful phrase of “data mine-ing” and she quoted from the recent RIN Report on e-Infrastructure: taking forward the strategy: “my impression of researchers, and I can criticize myself in this, is that we’re much more interested in sharing data when we mean sharing someone else’s as opposed [to] sharing ours”. Encouragement and reward were seen as more effective strategies than coercion, the latter can lead to pseudo sharing where data are shared but so poorly curated that they cannot be reused.

The importance of good management and curation was a key theme but this comes at a cost that has to be factored in. And data managment isn’t as appealing as research to those in the field. In later discussion, the issue of training information professionals to take on this role was raised.

Good curation can ensure that the researcher is properly accredited and this will be an incentive for more data sharing. Data citation could become as important as article citation in the future. And in the same way as a well written paper is more likely to be cited, so will a well curated dataset.

In all it was a very interesting event – the speakers were all thought provoking, as were the questions and comments from the floor.

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About Jackie Wickham
I am based at the Centre for Research Communications at the University of Nottingham. I work on the JISC funded Repositories Support Project which supports the development and growth of the UK repositories network.

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