PhD students can make a bigger impact by sharing their data, but this requires more mature data management practices. You have an oppotunity that other’s before you haven’t: to be focus on data alongside publications as a valuable output of research. Richard Ferrars and Amir Aryani of the Australian National Data Service tell us how it all works.

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 11.05.22 amPhD students can make a bigger impact by sharing their data, but this requires more mature data management practices. Data is valuable. Data is a resource to be exploited. It can lead to new collaborations, new publications, new grants. Here are five ways to create value from data:

1. Shared open data means more citation: share data

The internet has changed how we do research. Researchers can now so easily find, extract, analyse, and share research data like never before. Such potential has found a voice in an ‘open data’ movement affecting both government and research data. For government, sharing means less expense in fulfilling ‘Freedom of Information’ requests. For a researcher, open data means better connecting into the international research conversation, and leads to more citation.

Sharing data can also help researchers reach out to industry with a story to tell and bearing gifts of knowledge. See research documenting the benefits of sharing data on citation rate by Piwowar et al here and here. Sharing data is of course subject to ethical, legal and cultural sensitivities, and while a work in progress, like software, data can be released progressively to show the progress along the research journey.

2. Scientific data is not something to be hidden away: open data

Opening data means making it useful to someone else. So opening data means describing and documenting your methodology, process, and such minor things as your local abbreviations to allow other researchers to make sense of your data.

Data, alongside journal publications, conference papers, and other presentations are an important research output. But data is becoming the new way to separate a young researcher from the pack of your peers, and also from the Professors that have shown us the way forward.

Set your data free through opening and sharing it publicly (where appropriate; considering Ethics and Intellectual Property) using services like figShare, zenodo and the Australian Data Archive. Publishing your data, particularly with a DOI (digital object identifier from DataCite) attached gives it a chance to be cited alongside your other written work.

3. Published data is a publication: publish data

Once your data is made publicly available, and citable, it can justifiedly sit alongside your journal articles and conference presentations as part of your research output.

You can include lists of your published data in your CV, on LinkedIn, on your job applications, on your grant applications and on your Institutional and personal homepages. Your data becomes another publication, which showcases your work.

4. Contribute a verse to the global research conversation: talk data

The internet allows not only accessing other’s work, but a platform for presenting your contribution. As a researcher, you are a publisher as well as a retriever and reader. You are a producer as well as a consumer. As Walt Whitman so eloquently said, “the play goes on and you may contribute a verse”.

In the internet age, you have a voice for talking about your research. And by sharing your data, you will stand out from the crowd.

5. From 2014, applying for ARC grants means having a data management plan: plan for data

In early 2014, the Australian Research Council (ARC) took the early steps towards recognising the importance of data in the global research conversation. The ARC requested in their Discovery Grant and Fellowship applications for researchers to include plans about managing the generated data. Particularly the ARC asked for plans (see ANDS 20144) on “the management of data produced as a result of the proposed research, including but not limited to storage, access and re­use arrangements.”

While grants are not the first thing on PhD students minds, getting into the habit of planning, managing and sharing data effectively will set a track record that is likely to impress when it comes time to be judged on grant applications.

Sharing, opening, publishing, talking and planning for data creates value for researchers. Such actions will give new researchers particularly an edge over their peers, and a fast track to catch up with their Professors. Sharing data will lead to more citations, strengthen grant applications and enable researchers to contribute a new verse to the global research conversation.

What about you – do you have a data management plan or do you just stuff everything in the digital cupboard like I do? I think a lot of us could use help in this area. Do you deliberately manage, format, store or prepare data in ways that make it easily shareable? Interested in hearing what people are doing with their data in the comments.

Related posts on the thesis whisperer

A thesis by publications – you’re joking right?

Publications in your PhD

Other useful links on data sharing and citations

Does sharing your data increase citation rates?

Data re-use and citation rates

How to create a citation for data

The Australian Data Archive

Figshare – cloud service to upload and share data

Zenodo – cloud service to upload and share data

Please note this document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution­ShareAlike 4.0 International License., e.g., the content of this document is publicly accessible on the web. However, you need to contact the author in order to get edit rights.

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