A survey conducted by Digital Science's data management company Figshare has found "strong signals that open data is becoming more embedded" with researchers. But a lack of confidence in how to cite or reference other researchers' data and data sets is yet to be overcome, it revealed.
Conducted with Springer Nature researchers, the survey is based on 2,300 international respondents (up from 2,000 when it was conducted for the first time last year). Published today (Monday 23rd October) within a Digital Science report, "The State of Open Data 2017", it marks the start of Open Access Week, which runs until Friday (29th).
The survey found a greater awareness of open data sets from respondents this year (at 82%, up from 73% in 2016), with the age of the researcher not an issue in the rate of growth, which was the same among researchers aged 25-34 as it was among those aged 55-64. Researchers who said they routinely share data sets rose from 57% last year to 60%, while those who said they had never made a data set openly available dropped from 24% to 21%.
The profile of open data seems to have surged particularly strongly among researchers in Asia, who made up 29% of the respondents; those saying they were aware of open data sets grew from 65% last year to 80% in the latest survey.
In terms of motivation, 50% of respondents said they shared data in order to validate their research, and to avoid duplication; 35% cited fostering collaboration as a motivation.
However the research findings showed researchers uncertain how to cite or reference data and data sets from others. The number saying they were "extremely or very" confident in citing secondary data dropped from 42% last year to 36% this year, and from 40% to just 34% when it came to data sets. This may suggest that the swell of researchers newly interested in open data means many are still grappling with the nuances of engaging with it.
Grace Baynes, director of data and new product development at Springer Nature's Open Research, said: "This report shows a tangible shift in researchers attitudes and data sharing practices in just a single year and gives a sense that momentum is building. But there is more to be done. Good data sharing enables researchers to be up to 50% more productive, wastes less time in duplicating work, advances discovery and delivers real return on investment from public funding. The case for accelerated change is increasingly inarguable. To make open data and good research data management the new normal needs a concerted effort, and collaboration now from governments, funders, research institutions, publisher and researchers themselves. At Springer Nature, we look forward to playing our part."
Mark Hahnel, c.e.o. and founder of Figshare, also highlighted the "increasing momentum" around open research, evidenced by the report as a whole, but said it had highlighted "the need for funders and institutions to keep educating their academics."
Also marking Open Access Week, a Bookseller interview with Tim Britton, m.d. of Springer Nature's Open Research Group, is published here.