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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Re: "Thank you for sharing"

CC-BY 4.0, from Roche et al.via Wikipedia.
Nature wrote a piece on data sharing (doi:10.1038/520585a). It remains a tricky area to write about, particularly those terms like public access. Researchers are still a bit shy in sharing data, in some fields more than in others. And for valid reasons. Data sharing is a choice, it is something you do to get something in return. The return you get on your investment can vary, for example:
  1. goodwill (e.g. from your employer or funder)
  2. others will donate data to the same resource to benefit your research (a research needs some critical mass)
  3. it can be enjoyable
  4. the repository where you contribute your data adds value (e.g. by linking to other resources)
  5. others can find your data more easily, leading to more citations of your publications
  6. after using Open Data for yourself (e.g. pdb.org), you like to return a favor
I probably miss a few. On the other hand, you may miss out on other opportunities. For example, your data could have been part of an IP-based business model. For example, you are the only one to be able to use that data to solve/answer questions.

As said, there are many good and valid reasons for either option. It is an option, it is a choice.

The Nature News article has this lead that misled me:
    Initiatives to make genetic and medical data publicly available could improve diagnostics — but they lose value if they do not share with other projects.
The article, however, then discusses a few mechanisms use for data sharing, but I could not spot one that had anything to do with "publicly available". So, I left this comment with the editorial and with PubMed Commons:
    Like Open Access, "sharing" is a meaningless term if it is not linked to meaningful rights. The problems outlined in this paper result from the fact that their may be a wish to share data but only if it allows you to take back the data. Private, custom data licenses do just that. There is nothing wrong with this kind of sharing, but it must not be confused with Open Data. It must not be confounded with terms like "publicly available", because if it needs a signature, it's not publicly available. That makes the lead of this article quite misleading.
    For public or open data, three basic rights are part of the social agreement between the data owner (yes, fact in many countries; database rights, etc) and data user. These rights are: 1. make a copy, 2. make modifications, and 3. reshare (under the same conditions). By using a license (or waiver) that gives this rights automatically to the receiver, then there is no need for signatures. It also allows for anyone to make the mappings that are required to convert one format into another.
BTW, the image I used in this post is from a paper from Roche et al. of about a year ago (doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001779). I have not read that one yet, but looks like an interesting read too, just like the Nature editorial.

, Apr. 2015. Thank you for sharing. Nature 520 (7549), 585. URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/520585a

Roche, D. G., Lanfear, R., Binning, S. A., Haff, T. M., Schwanz, L. E., Cain, K. E., Kokko, H., Jennions, M. D., Kruuk, L. E. B., Jan. 2014. Troubleshooting public data archiving: Suggestions to increase participation. PLoS Biol 12 (1), e1001779+. URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001779