The arguments for data sharing have been discussed in many early publications, including "Sharing Research Data" (edited by Feinberg, and Straf. Washington: National Academies Press for the Committee on National Statistics Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council in 1985) and many other later publications and guides.
The section below describes first the general public good arguments for data archiving and then, as the success of the archiving endeavour, however, ultimately depends on researchers' willingness to deposit their data for others to use, outlines the actual and practical benefits to the depositor.
Arguments for Archiving and Sharing Data
- Sharing data reinforces open scientific inquiry, allowing effective self-correction of research; secondary analysts can verify, refute, or refine original results.
- It facilitates high-quality, policy-relevant research.
- Sharing encourages diversity of analysis and opinions, and of a multiplicity of perspectives.
- Sharing promotes new research and allows for the testing of new or alternative methods.
- It allows analysis of data in ways not envisioned by the original investigators and improves methods of data collection and measurements through the scrutiny of others.
- Sharing data reduces costs by avoiding duplicate data collection efforts.
- Sharing allows the creation of new datasets through the merging or linkage of two or more existing sources of information.
- Shared data provides an important resource for training in research.
- Sharing fulfils the social or custodial duty of the original data collector to the respondents.
- It allows for the training of the next generation of policymakers and researchers, and may lead to a more informed public.
- Sharing data can reduce the burden on respondents caused by multiple data collection efforts and makes known to the field what data have already been collected so that additional resources are not spent.
- Shared data may also be used advantageously in the classroom to introduce students to the challenges, excitement, and messiness of working with real data in order to most fully capitalise on the investment of data collection.
Benefits to the Data Collector
- Depositing data in an archive often meets contractual, legal or ethical obligations to funding bodies or national institutions. With the increase of institutional, national and international data policies, this motivation for offering data to an archive or data service is increasingly common. In this way, obligations regarding making funded research available to the research community are fulfilled.
- Fulfilling custodial responsibility; data collectors bear such responsibility for the data they collect and deposit in an archive ensures that data will be safely preserved in perpetuity.
- Deposit and dissemination for secondary analysis can justify the often high costs of data collection.
- Data collectors bear a social and intellectual responsibility to ensure the integrity and preservation of the data.
- Once accepted into an archive, data are cleaned and documented to a high standard.
- Archive ensures long-term safekeeping of data, protecting it from obsolescence, loss, deterioration, or irreversible damage; data are stored under conditions that meet national and international standards.
- Data are described and publicised by the archive so that resource discovery is ensured, through entry in the archive and CESSDA online Data Catalogue (which generally include searchable study descriptions and facilitate bibliographic citations).
- Archives offer skilled administrative support including management of the secondary usage of the collection, rights management (licensing issues), removing the administrative burden from depositors, and managing user queries. Overall, the confidentiality of data is ensured by the archive, and licences and access controls will ensure that only authorised and registered users can have access to the data.
- The costs of disseminating data are borne by the archive, freeing time and resources of data collectors and permitting other users to carry out secondary analysis on the data.
- Archives provide feedback on subsequent usage of data.
- Frequently, outsiders bring fresh ideas and new analytic perspectives to a project.
- Researchers can demonstrate value in their research by continued re-use of data, which may influence funding agencies to provide further funding.
- A good case can be made that a researcher may actually enhance the productivity (and certainly the visibility) of a project through early archiving.
- Archives can provide information on data management throughout the project life cycle. Because standards in terms of data structure and format, documentation format and content and metadata need to be considered from an early stage, the skilled archive staff can provide advice on all these subjects throughout the life span of the research award - from the initial award application, when advice is offered on all aspects of data creation, to the end of the research phase, when issues concerning data deposition need to be discussed.
- Often, procedures required for archiving of data impose research management standards which can be useful during primary analysis of the data.