Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

How to Get the Most out of Scientific Data

By Allen Greer

Researchers act as if they own their data, but this is counterproductive to the pursuit of science.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Most people would assume that any data produced and published by publicly funded research would be available to anyone interested in it, either through a public repository or upon reasonable request. This is not the case.

A few societies and journals, such as The Royal Society and Science, mandate open access to all data underlying a published research report. A few journals, such as Nature and its stablemates, mandate open access to certain kinds of data, but not all. Some granting agencies, like the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council, “encourage” the placement of data in publicly accessible repositories, while others like the National Science Foundation “expect” researchers to share their data. The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research simply states that “research data should be made available for use by other researchers”.

Many societies and journals have no policy at all. Sanctions are never mentioned.

Any policy other than open access is totally inadequate in a digitally based, open and transparency society. There can be no reason for not mandating that all data be deposited in an online database or for the data to be made available without argument upon request. There should be explicit sanctions for non-compliance such as exclusion from further grants and publication.


The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.