Ever thought of publishing your data?

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.

14 thoughts on “Ever thought of publishing your data?

  1. Peter Bentley says:

    Great post, I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of sharing data.

    One question (and rant) on point #5 from the ARC. Does the ARC require grant recipients to make their data publicly available or available upon request? My understanding is that they are encouraged to and must submit a plan, but they are not required to release data and there is no one responsible for making them comply with anything they put in their data management plan.

    I hope this has changed because in my limited anecdotal experience CIs have been given hundreds of thousands of public dollars to gather data, but then this public funding is used to create something owned by individual CIs and not the broader scientific community ( a type of “state sponsored entrepreneurship”). When asked about if and when the data would be made public, the ARC and the university do not disclose any information about the data management plan. It is covered in secrecy. No one can know what is included in the data management plan or any reasons for not releasing data. The current (or past?) system allows CIs to manage data access in exchange for whatever requirements they like (e.g. “ghost” authorship).

    Obviously this sort of behavior undermines collegiality and communal norms of science, but when universities and academics are expected to compete based on individual publishing, it is entirely rational for CIs and their universities to prevent others from accessing data. It makes them look more productive relative to their competitors.

  2. Alyssa M. Alcorn says:

    I like the idea of sharing data and know that I could have benefited hugely from looking at others’ data earlier in my PhD… But my main data in question is videos of young children with disabilities using technologies. Ethical/consent minefield! It is hard enough to get permission to video at all, and a number of parents give research-only permissions (won’t allow videos to be used in conference presentations, for instance). I can’t imagine getting permission for videos that would be part of a completely open dataset. Even negotiating for a dataset to which other researchers could request access might turn out to be extremely difficult. There are written annotations on the videos which could perhaps be shared more easily as they are more anonymous, but it is hard to make sense of these in isolation without seeing the videos and really getting a feel for the child-system interactions.

    NB: I am writing from the UK, and have found that parents/schools here appear to be extremely strict and have huge anxiety around videos and photos of children. In the US, where I am originally from, there did not seem to be this same level of anxiety. So, academics elsewhere in the world may find more receptiveness to an open video dataset of this type than I think I would get here.

  3. Gerdien Meijerink says:

    I graduated last week (yay!) and the first email I got from my supervisor was about publishing my data. My university (Wageningen University in The Netherlands) has a new policy of open data. The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences has a “Data Archiving and Networked Services” with the slogan: “data sharing, good for science, good for you” (http://www.dans.knaw.nl/en).
    I published my data on ResearchGate, but am still thinking about other ways.

  4. Publishing Insights says:

    I’ve also just finished my dissertation, and I’m now thinking about what to do with my data. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue! 🙂
    Feel free to check out my writing about publishing: publishinginsights.org

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