NIH Prodding Makes Data Sharing More Common, Survey Finds

Via the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Ticker Blog.

Report: “Codifying Collegiality: Recent Developments in Data Sharing Policy in the Life Sciences”

Authors: Genevieve Pham-Kanter, Darren E. Zinner, and Eric G. Campbell

Journal: PLoS ONE

Summary: The paper, based on a study conducted by researchers at Drexel, Brandeis, and Harvard Universities, represents an attempt to measure the effectiveness of policies instituted by funding agencies and journals to encourage the wider sharing of data by scientists.

The study consisted of a survey that was sent to 2,853 life-sciences investigators at leading research institutions and that drew a response rate of 41 percent. The answers were compared with those in a similarly designed survey by a separate research team in 2000. The comparison was chosen because of various changes in rules and the creation of data repositories since 2000, including a 2003 requirement by the National Institutes of Health for the inclusion of data-sharing plans in all grant applications with an expected annual value exceeding $500,000.

Survey responses suggested that NIH policies had the greatest positive effect on data sharing; that data-sharing policies at scientific journals had only a moderate effect; and that almost 25 percent of respondents admitted they sometimes or always neglected to file required legal contracts before sharing materials with investigators at other institutions.

Bottom Line: The survey results affirmed that the policies of the NIH, the leading supplier of basic-research money to universities, can have a powerful effect on researcher behavior. The findings also suggested that bureaucratic requirements may need to be eased to further encourage data sharing.

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