Reputation instead of obligation:…

Reputation instead of obligation: forging new policies to motivate academic data sharing by Sascha Friesike, Benedikt Fecher, Marcel Hebing, and Stephanie Linek.

From the post:

Despite strong support from funding agencies and policy makers academic data sharing sees hardly any adoption among researchers. Current policies that try to foster academic data sharing fail, as they try to either motivate researchers to share for the common good or force researchers to publish their data. Instead, Sascha Friesike, Benedikt Fecher, Marcel Hebing, and Stephanie Linek argue that in order to tap into the vast potential that is attributed to academic data sharing we need to forge new policies that follow the guiding principle reputation instead of obligation.

In 1996, leaders of the scientific community met in Bermuda and agreed on a set of rules and standards for the publication of human genome data. What became known as the Bermuda Principles can be considered a milestone for the decoding of our DNA. These principles have been widely acknowledged for their contribution towards an understanding of disease causation and the interplay between the sequence of the human genome. The principles shaped the practice of an entire research field as it established a culture of data sharing. Ever since, the Bermuda Principles are used to showcase how the publication of data can enable scientific progress.

Considering this vast potential, it comes as no surprise that open research data finds prominent support from policy makers, funding agencies, and researchers themselves. However, recent studies show that it is hardly ever practised. We argue that the academic system is a reputation economy in which researchers are best motivated to perform activities if those pay in the form of reputation. Therefore, the hesitant adoption of data sharing practices can mainly be explained by the absence of formal recognition. And we should change this.

(emphasis in the original)

Understanding what motivates researchers to share data is an important step towards encouraging data sharing.

But at the same time, would we say that every researcher is as good as every other researcher at preparing data for sharing? At documenting data for sharing? At doing any number of tasks that aren’t really research, but just as important in order to share data?

Rather than focusing exclusively on researchers, funders should fund projects to include data sharing specialists who have the skills and interests necessary to effectively share data as part of a project’s output. Their reputations will be more closely tied to the successful sharing of data and researchers would gain in reputation for the high quality data that is shared. A much better fit for the recommendation of the authors.

Or to put it differently, lecturing researchers on how they should spend their limited time and resources to satisfy your goals, isn’t going to motivate anyone. “Pay the man!” (Richard Prior from Silver Streak)

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