Sharing Data

Advantages and opportunities

Image by Gerd Altmann/CC0

Why share data?

At the heart of the scientific process is a raw material without which research would be impossible: research data. Oftentimes a researcher or research group works with data and then stores it on a USB stick in a drawer after the project is done. Sharing one's data, however, enables round-the-globe academic synergies. By sharing data, other researchers can test, replicate and re-analyse them.

Enabling meta analyses is another reason for more openness with one's data. In some disciplines, that encourage an open data culture, errors in well-established measuring methods or tools have been discovered by meta-analyses that showed inconsistencies across research data. In this way meta analyses based on shared data can help avoid false and distorted results.

What are the advantages of sharing data?

  1. New world-wide cooperations can emerge.
  2. Research results become more visible through citation of published data. [1]
  3. Openly accessible data can inspire new or complementary research ideas.
  4. Data sharing encourages an open scientific culture.

Who supports data sharing?

Reserach data and publications can be archived and published in online repositories. In recent years a large number of repositories have come into existence. Depending on the discipline, the choice can be quite varied.

An overview of existing repositories world-wide as well as a search function with many useful filters is provided by re3data. It is possible, for example, to filter for repositories from specific disciplines or for repositories who provide different access options (open access, restricted access).

DINI certificate

DINI, the Deutsche Initiative für Netzwerkinformationen e. V. (German Initiative for Network Information) awards the Dini certificate for Germany-based publishing services and open access repositories which fulfill the following criteria:

 1.) effective communication between users and suppliers of data/publications

2.) inspiring high levels of trust in the users (with regard to the protection of priority rights and copyright as well as maintaining the authenticity and quality of published works)

3.) Sustainability and accountability (stable citation links and long-term availability, transparency in the publishing process)

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Data Seal of Approval (DSA)

This certificate is awareded by the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) which is part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). This data seal certifies libraries, museums, archives as well as data repositories. The 16 seal guidelines are mainly based on 5 criteria:

1.) The data can be found online.

2.) The data are accessible without limitation and ownership of the data is clear.

3.) The data are available in a common format.

4.) The data are reliable.

5.) The data are citable via a persistent identifier.

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nestor seal for trust-worthy long-term archives

Nestor is a German competency network for long-term archiving of digital artefacts, which focuses on the harmonisation efforts of all partner institutions (archives, libraries, museums). The nestor seal comprises a list of 34 criteria including legal, budget and staffing aspects of the certified institution. The stored data are evaluated according to their quality, citability, re-usability and long-term durability (data formats and storage mediums).

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Another possibility is is the publishing of research data in data journals. These journals are dedicated to the description, documentation and evaluation of research data. Data journals usually do not require a scientific publication, but a description of the data in the form of a paper or a Data Curation Profile. The data set itself is archived in a repository with the journal article referencing the data set via a persistent identifier.

What to consider when sharing data

  • Is the repository or data journal suitable for your discipline?
  • Can you discern whether the repository will be operational in the long term?
  • Do the offered acces options fit your needs (closed/restricted/open access)?
  • Which data formats and meta data standards are being accepted/used?
  • What information does the provider give about data security?
  • Is copyright taken into account and is data citation mandatory?
  • Have their data licensing and data reuse contracts been legally vetted?
  • Are the research data that are archived on the repository findable by discipline-specific search engines?
  • Sensible/personal data: are data anonymised/pseudonimised before uploading?

Best Practices for data sharing can be found on the webpages of the UK DATA Archive.


  1. Piwowar, H. A., Day, R. S., Fridsma, D. B. (2007). Sharing detailed research data is associated with increased citation rate. PloS one, 2 (3), e308.