The State of Open Data Report 2022: Researchers Need More Support to Assist with Open Data Mandates

One of the key findings of the 2022 State of Open Data report

Researchers worldwide will need further assistance to help comply with an increasing number of open data mandates, according to the authors of a new report.

The State of Open Data Report 2022 – the latest in an annual collaborative series from Digital ScienceFigshare and Springer Nature – is released today.

Based on a global survey, the report is now in its seventh year and provides insights into researchers’ attitudes towards and experiences of open data. With more than 5,400 respondents, the 2022 survey is the largest since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

This year’s report also includes guest articles from open data experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), publishers and universities.

Founder and CEO of Figshare Mark Hahnel says: “This year’s State of Open Data Report comes at a unique point in time when we’re seeing a growing number of open data mandates from funding organizations and policymakers, most notably the NIH and OSTP in the United States, but also recently from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia, and in Europe and the UK.

“What is clear from the findings of our report is that while most researchers embrace the concepts of open data and open science, they also have some reasonable misgivings about how open data policies and practices impact on them. In an environment where open data mandates are increasing, funding organizations would benefit from working even more closely with researchers and providing them with additional support to help smooth the transition to a fully open data future.

“We all have a role to play in driving a better future for open data and accessible research, and one way we can do that through this report is by listening to the voices of researchers, funders, institutions, and publishers,” he says.

A comment from NIH contributors to the 2022 State of Open Data report

Primary findings from this year’s report indicated that:

  • There is a growing trend in researchers being in favour of data being made openly available as common practice (4 out of every five researchers were in agreement with this), supported somewhat by now over 70% of respondents being required to follow a policy on data sharing.
  • However, researchers still cite a key need in helping them to share their data as being more training or information on policies for access, sharing and reuse (55%) as well as long-term storage and data management strategies (52%).
  • Credit and recognition were once again a key theme for researchers in sharing their data. Of those who had previously shared data, 66% had received some form of recognition for their efforts – most commonly via full citation in another article (41%) followed by co-authorship on a paper that had used the data.
  • Researchers are more inclined to share their research data where it can have an impact on citations (67%) and the visibility of their research (61%), rather than being motivated by public benefit or journal/publisher mandate (both 56%).

Graham Smith, Open Data Program Manager, Springer Nature, says: “For the past seven years these surveys have helped paint a picture of researcher perspectives on open data. The report shows us not only the progress made but the steps that still need to be taken on the journey towards an open data future in support of the research community. Whether it’s the broad support of researchers for making research data openly available as common practice or the changing attitudes to open data mandates, we must learn from and deliver concrete steps forward to address what the community is telling us.

“Springer Nature is firmly committed to this and we continue to work closely with our partners, such as Figshare and Digital Science, to create better understanding around data sharing.”

Daniel Hook, CEO of Digital Science, says: “Digital Science is committed to making open, collaborative and inclusive research possible, as we believe this environment will lead to the greatest benefit for society. Now in its seventh year, while the articles in The State of Open Data Report represent a unique set of snapshots marking the evolution of attitudes about Open Data in our community, the data behind the survey constitutes a valuable resource to track researcher sentiment regarding open data and their experiences of data sharing. I believe that these data represent an amazing opportunity to understand the challenges and needs of our community so that we can collectively build better infrastructure to support research.”

Key findings via theme of the report

Support for open data

  • Four out of every five respondents are in favour of research data being made openly available as common practice.
  • 74% of respondents reported sharing their data during publication.
  • Approximately one fifth of respondents reported having no concerns about sharing data openly – this proportion has been steadily growing since 2018.
  • 88% of researchers surveyed are supportive of making research articles open access (OA) as a common scholarly practice.

Motivations and benefits

  • When it comes to researchers sharing their data, citations of research papers (67%) and increased impact and visibility of papers (61%) outweigh public benefit or journal/publisher mandate (both 56%) as motivation.
  • Of those who had previously shared data, 66% had received some form of recognition for their efforts – most commonly via full citation in another article (41%) followed by co-authorship on a paper that had used the data.
  • A third of respondents indicated they had been involved in a research collaboration as a result of data they had previously shared.

Open data mandates

  • 70% of respondents were required to follow a policy on data sharing for their most recent piece of research.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents are supportive “to some extent” of a national mandate for making research data openly available. This number has been declining since 2019.
  • Just over half (52%) of respondents in the 2022 survey felt that sharing data should be a part of the requirement for awarding research grants. Again, this number has been declining since 2019.

Drawbacks

  • Only 19% of respondents believe that researchers get sufficient credit for sharing their data, while 75% say they receive too little credit.
  • Just under a quarter of respondents indicated that they had previously received support with planning, managing or sharing their research data
  • The greatest concern among respondents is misuse of their data (35%).
  • The key needs of researchers which were felt more training or information would improve were better understanding and definitions for policies for access, sharing and reuse (55%) as well as long-term storage and data management strategies (52%) – things that impact both ends of the research cycle.

Key demographics of respondents

  • Researchers from China now comprise 11% of all respondents, equal with that of the United States. China and the US are the two countries with the biggest response to the survey, followed by India, Japan, Germany, Italy, UK, Canada, Brazil, France and Spain.
  • 31% of respondents were early career researchers (ECRs), while a further 31% classed themselves as senior researchers.
  • Most respondents (42%) were from medicine & life sciences; 38% from mathematics, physics and applied sciences; and 17% from humanities and social sciences (an increase of 3%).
  • Respondents were broadly categorised as: Open science advocates (32%), Open publishing advocates (26%), Cautiously pro open science (25%), Open science agnostics (11%), and Non-believers of open science (6%).
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