Scientific “Data Sharing” in the Real World

In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology on 2022-05-29, “Many researchers were not compliant with their published data sharing statement: mixed-methods study”, the authors report that they analysed a total of 3416 publications in 333 open-access journals in which the required Data Availability Statements (DAS) indicated willingness to share data. They found:

Of 3556 analyzed articles, 3416 contained DAS. The most frequent DAS category (42%) indicated that the datasets are available on reasonable request. Among 1792 manuscripts in which DAS indicated that authors are willing to share their data, 1670 (93%) authors either did not respond or declined to share their data with us. Among 254 (14%) of 1792 authors who responded to our query for data sharing, only 122 (6.8%) provided the requested data.

They concluded:

Even when authors indicate in their manuscript that they will share data upon request, the compliance rate is the same as for authors who do not provide DAS, suggesting that DAS may not be sufficient to ensure data sharing.

In the spirit of open access to scientific data, most of which is produced by institutions funded by money taken by coercion from taxpayers, the full text of the data availability compliance study is behind the paywall of the Elsevier journal that published it (whose Web site banner contains the text “Supports *Open Access”), and if you’d like to read it, “Academic and Personal 24 hour online access” will cost you US$ 31.50.

Maybe I should write to the authors and ask for a copy of their data.

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Doooo Eeeeet! Part of the problem is no one usually asks for their data, so they forget how to distribute it, even with good intentions.

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sci-cough-hub

I find that widely-cited, older papers are often available on Sci-Hub, but recent, more obscure papers (including this one) are rarely available there. It’s a big help, but a large fraction of taxpayer-funded research still remains behind academic publisher paywalls.

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Often the tightfistedness with data, more broadly the territoriality over real or imagined intellectual property, is inversely proportional to the deservingness.

Part of the dynamic is “information is power”.

One highly non-science example is legal reporting. Rarely will a general purpose publication link to a court opinion or even provide a case number citation lest a reader look at the document absent media spin.

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Was able to access the article through my institution’s Elsevier existing account. Skimmed quickly through it and it’s underwhelming, even more so because it’s the journal pre-proof copy formatted with a very annoying font choice in what appears to be Word for Windows. Hard to read because of the formatting.

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