Research Remix

May 22, 2007

Sharing Data Angst

Filed under: motivations, opendata — Heather Piwowar @ 9:50 am

A Nature editorial on data sharing.

A fair share
Nature 444, 653-654 (7 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/444653b; Published online 6 December 2006

Many of the points made for psychology are also relevant in biomedicine. For example, “Their discipline is ‘softer’ than some others: rarely do data on issues such as playground bullying or the usefulness of psychotherapy reveal really clear-cut answers.” A lack of clear-cut answers certainly sounds familiar to those working in cancer genetics.

The article discusses the sorry state of data sharing, theoretical reasons why it might be that way, and a few potential solutions. Good stuff, but the editorial failed to dig into their promising first sentence.

“The concept of sharing primary data is generating unnecessary angst in the psychology community.”

Does the concept of sharing data generate unnecessary angst? Does it actually generate angst, or is it mostly laziness or selfishness or fear? If angst, is the angst indeed unwarranted? To what extent does sharing data in fact lead to additional stresses for authors?

I’d love to see research into the reasons why scientists do not share data, and whether their reasons are upheld by events. This knowledge would allow us to address the underlying issues deterring authors from making their data available, which is bound to be more effective for long-term goals than simply relying on requirements from funding agencies and journals.


  1. Another new Open Science blog.

    Speaking of new faces in the blogosphere, Heather Piwowar has a new blog, Research Remix, focusing on Open Data:… the goal of this blog is to capture my notes as I flail around learning everything I can about data sharing and re-use, with the short-t…

    Trackback by Open Reading Frame — May 22, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

  2. On thing that makes it difficult to share data, in the biomedical field, is the concern for privacy. In the U.S., the Institutional Review Boards that oversee research involving human subjects are unlikely to agree to research plans that will make data freely accessible. Lately, there have even been problems with publications, since people in families with genetic diseases hunt down the publications, and can learn the status of their relatives via the pedigrees in the papers.

    Comment by Sandra Porter — May 23, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

  3. Hello Sandra, thank you for taking the time to comment.

    Genetics is an area I’m not very familiar with, so I appreciate the insight. You’re right, I can see how there are areas which, by the nature of their data, can not be sufficiently deidentified. I wonder how the dilemma of publications will be resolved?

    I am most familiar with mRNA microarray data, which can almost always be deidentified and safely shared. I believe that clinical histories can also be sufficiently deidentified (in most cases) to be made freely accessible while protecting privacy, though I hear you, I don’t think most IRBs agree.

    I’d like to explore this issue further in a future post.

    Thanks again.

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — May 25, 2007 @ 8:42 am

  4. […] Read more about this topic from the author here. […]

    Pingback by Border Crossing Stats » Sharing Data Angst Research Remix — March 11, 2008 @ 4:28 am

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