The State of Open Data 2021 - survey results

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Figshare, Digital Science, and Springer Nature’s annual State of Open Data report finds increasing concern among researchers about misuse of data as well as a lack of credit and acknowledgement for those who do openly share their data. 

Among the key findings, 55 per cent feel they need support in regard to copyright and licenses when making research data openly available, and 73 per cent strongly or somewhat support the idea of a national mandate for making research data openly available.

At the same time, 65 per cent of respondents have never received credit or acknowledgement for sharing data. 

The State of Open Data report is in its sixth year, and more than 4,200 researchers responded from around the world, providing detailed and prolonged insight into motivations, challenges, perceptions, and behaviors toward open data. It builds on a strong body of evidence that confirms one of the main barriers to data sharing is lack of credit and acknowledgement.

Primary motivations for data sharing are tied to traditional measurements of impact and credit, with 19% of respondents motivated by citation of their research papers, 14 per cent by co-authorship on papers, 11 per cent by increased impact and visibility of research, and 11 per cent on public benefit. 

Despite concerns over misuse of data and licensing, 66 per cent of respondents had heard of the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data principles, which were established five years ago, with 28 per cent responding that they are familiar with them, the highest number since this question was first asked in 2018. More than half of respondents (54 per cent) thought their data was very much or somewhat compliant with the FAIR data principles, also the highest number since this question was first asked in 2018. These findings indicate that concern over sharing data could lessen in the long run if data are as accessible and reusable as possible.

 Mark Hahnel, CEO and founder of Figshare, said: 'Over the last six years we have had over 21,000 responses from researchers to our annual survey of open data. This year the message we heard very clearly from respondents concerned a lack of acknowledgement for data sharing. Researchers want to share, but the current system does not incentivise it and they additionally need support to understand licensing and copyright. Providing the training and support will help but only by addressing the way academics are rewarded can we move to a world where data is more openly shared.

Eugenie Regan, vice president for research solutions at Springer Nature, said: 'These surveys have provided an essential benchmark in addressing where researchers feel the benefits in data sharing and where the gaps and concerns still remain. Whilst year-on-year progress can be seen in some areas, researcher concerns still remain around credit, data misuse and support around copyright and licensing.

'To move to a truly open research environment, we as a community need to get better at taking concrete steps to drive forward appropriate measures to better support our research community. Springer Nature is firmly committed to this and we continue to work closely with our partners, such as Figshare and Digital Science, to better develop solutions and understanding around data sharing together.'