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State of Open Data 2021

Springer Nature and Digital Science jointly released The State of Open Data 2021 Report. What’s in it? 

Open Data Survey

Sharing of data could enhance transparency and help validate research and accelerate scientific discovery and advancement. Thus it is crucial to understand researchers’ attitudes and concerns about data sharing. For six years, Springer Nature and Digital Science have collaborated to conduct an annual survey to understand the researchers’ attitudes and behaviours toward open data, and researchers’ responses were collected from 192 countries. The survey in 2021 revealed three key findings.

Concern about Sharing Data Continues

The overall number of concerns about sharing datasets has increased. Common concerns about handling and sharing data, such as processing sensitive data or data requiring consent and permission from funders or institute, remains high. Meanwhile, new concerns arose in the area of the value of data. Specifically, 20% of respondents in this year’s survey expressed concern that competitors may ‘scoop’ them to discovery, and 22% indicated they were unsure whether potential findings had been exhausted.

While the sharing of data could increase the visibility of research and citation, 65% of the respondents stated that they have never received credit or acknowledgement for sharing data. It is no surprise that there are increasing concerns about the misuse of data, unsure about copyright and data licensing, and not receiving appropriate credit or acknowledgement.

Increased Awareness of the FAIR Principles

The appropriate reuse of data could be supported by the FAIR data principles established six years ago. It is a set of principles that provide guidelines to improve the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of digital assets.

The results from this year’s survey, in general, indicated that respondents are more familiar and compliant with the FAIR principles. Two-thirds of the respondents had heard of the FAIR principles, and 28% were familiar with them. More than half of the respondents familiar with the FAIR principles have reused their own data, and 44% have used other openly accessible data, suggesting that data that meets the FAIR data principles are more likely to be reused.

Over half of the respondents thought their datasets were very much or somewhat compliant with the FAIR data principles. The FAIR data principles have positively impacted to lessen the concern over sharing data. The more the data agrees with the FAIR principles, the less the chance the data would be misused.

Need Help? Roles of Repositories, Publishers, & Libraries

The survey also asked the respondents how they sought help publicizing research data. More than half of them would like more directions from their institutions. Currently, respondents usually rely upon repositories, publishers, and institutional libraries. They also highlighted three areas that need help most:

  • data managing policies
  • copyright and licensing issues
  • finding appropriate repositories

Help from HKUST Library

The HKUST Library actively promotes open data and is currently providing help to researchers to share their data. Researchers could find information on data managing policies in the Data Curation & Management Toolkit, a guide on managing, curating, and sharing data. Researchers could also use the new DMPTool@HKUST to plan for data management and distribution.

Information on copyright can be found in the guide to copyright. In addition to the information, the HKUST Library also hosts a research data repository, the DataSpace@HKUST, for storing and sharing research data. Researchers from the HKUST are welcome to use these services and to contact us for help on data sharing. 

– By Lester Chan, Library

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published May 5, 2022