Figshare launches institutional version

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The data-storing and sharing service Figshare has launched a version of its product for academic institutions. The aim of figshare for Institutions is to help academic and higher education establishments to host securely and make publicly available their academic research outputs. 

Mark Hahnel, founder of Figshare, told Research Information that the company has been looking at how to offer an institutional version throughout 2013. Since the spring Figshare has been piloting its service at Imperial College in London and it also has development partners in the USA and Australia.

‘The thing we’ve found from talking to institutions is the need for research data management in general and for quantifying and enhancing the value of research for institutions,’ he explained.

This need, he explained, comes partly from open access and funder mandates that make demands on researchers and institutions to make their research data available. In addition, institutions themselves need access to data, often after the researchers who generated it have left the institution. Hahnel recounted his own experiences of needing to go back to his former university to help track down data from his PhD.

The model of Figshare for institutions is that universities buy site licences, which provide researchers, through their Shibboleth authentication, with private storage space. It also provides collaborative storage space, where data can be shared with as many or as few people as the researcher needs to.

‘For institutions it’s not really about open or closed but about control,’ said Hahnel. ‘When the time comes and the institution wants or needs to make data openly available this can be done at one click.’

In addition, the service provides researchers and institutions with metrics about how their data is accessed. Figshare is starting to work with its sister Digital Science company Altmetric to enhance the metrics available. It is also working with another sister company, Symplectic, which helps institutions organise and track their research output.

The tool also enables institutions to push data to their institutional repository and export data or metrics for funders or research assessment exercises.
Figshare’s approach, according to Hahnel, can save institutions money compared with building a solution themselves. In addition to the economies of scale that can come from an off-the-shelf solution, he said that storage in Amazon’s cloud, which Figshare uses, does not come with a linear cost. Instead, the more data you store, the cheaper it becomes per unit of data. Figshare already has a large amount of data in Amazon’s cloud so can add additional data more cheaply than individual customers could.

Some of the features of the new institutional version, such as the collaborative space, are also planned for inclusion in Figshare’s individual offering later this year. This will work on a freemium model.