Open data use growing – Figshare report

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Researchers are increasingly willing to share data and are increasingly aware of open data, according to a survey by Figshare.

Last year, to mark Open Access Week and to share insight into attitudes and experiences of researchers working with open data, Figshare released a report collating findings of a survey it had undertaken in partnership with Springer Nature.

The 2016 survey showed that open data was already a reality, and that while researchers were unsure and lacked confidence on some specifics and particulars, there were indications that the future would likely be more open.

This year's Figshare survey saw the number of respondents groom from just over 2,000 to almost 2,300, in part due to the willingness of Springer Nature to ensure large numbers of researchers were invited to respond. When researchers were happy to disclose where they were based, Figshare saw a strong growth in responses from researchers based in Asia (20 per cent up to 29 per cent) with increases from Africa (1 per cent to 6 per cent) and South America (5 per cent to 8 per cent); however, sample size was still too small to draw specific conclusions.

Digital Science's Jon Treadway and Briony Fane said there were strong signals that open data is becoming more embedded; the trends are positive:

  • Respondents have become more aware of open data sets (82 per cent up from 73 per cent) than in 2016. Age does not appear to be a major factor in this trend - younger researchers (25-34 year olds) showing no larger increase (75 per cent to 85 per cent) when compared with older age groups, notably 55-64 year olds (up from 70 per cent to 80 per cent).
  • Willingness of researchers to reuse open data sets in their own research has grown by a similar amount, a 10 per cent increase to 80 per cent, with the increase again replicated across age groups.
  • Those researchers who routinely share their data (either frequently or sometimes) has also grown since 2016, although by a smaller amount, from 57 per cent to 60 per cent. The proportion of researchers who have never made a data set openly available has reduced from 24 per cent to 21 per cent (see figure above). Some 70 per cent of these researchers are now willing to reuse open data sets in their own research.
  • More researchers are curating their data for sharing – an increase from 67 per cent in 2016 to 74 per cent in 2017.
  • Some 29 per cent of respondents who frequently share data do not know where funds to action this were coming from – a result consistent between 2016 & 2017, but positively those who share data less regularly saw a reduction from 43 per cent to 38 per cent. Those who are not aware of data sets are also more likely to know who would pay for it, down from 54 per cent to 46 per cent.

The authors said: 'There are more findings to be uncovered, more suggestive data points to be scrutinised, and we would invite the community to help us extend the analysis presented here'

The full data from the 2017 survey is available on Figshare, here; a longer report on this research will appear in the next print issue of Research Information.

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