'Establishing incentives and changing cultures to support data access' investigated the costs to researchers of providing access to datasets, whether these are sufficiently balanced by the benefits of doing so (either by recognition, reward or career advancement), and whether there are better incentives that could be put into place to ensure that data is presented well.
The report was developed by the Expert Advisory Group on Data Access (EAGDA), initially established by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust. The group includes Nigel Shadbolt, Onora O'Neill and former RSS Council member Chris Skinner of the LSE.
Overall, the report found that making data accessible to others can carry a 'significant cost' to researchers, both financially and in the time it takes to do so. It identified a lack of infrastructure in place to support researchers in data management and sharing, and acknowledged that although data managers are increasingly key members of research teams, they are 'often afforded a low status and few career progression opportunities'.
The report recommended that data management and sharing plans are appropriately resourced, such as key data repositories receiving long-term funding and support. It also acknowledged the 'critical role' that publishers and research institutions have to play in encouraging researchers to publish datasets that support their findings. 'Journals should require that datasets underlying published papers are accessible, including through direct links in papers wherever possible,' it added.
The report proposed that future Research Excellence Frameworks (REF) explicitly recognise high quality datasets as a valuable research output. It also suggested introducing an award for best data resource, as well as possibly one for best secondary use of data.
'Establishing incentives and changing cultures to support data access' is available to download from the Wellcome Trust website.