Openly Available Research Data Promotes Data Use and Improves Transparency

The FSD asked a few researchers who had deposited data at the data archive to answer three simple questions:

  1. What do you think about researcher funders’ recommendations or requirements to make data available for other researchers?
  2. Did you know that a dataset deposited at the FSD or made otherwise available could be added to your curriculum vitae?
  3. Did you know that the bibliographical citation model provided by the FSD can be added directly to your CV? If you knew this, have you done so?

The idea was to investigate what researchers thought about research funders’ efforts to make data openly available. We wanted to know whether data are deposited at the archive because archiving is recommended by the funder or whether there are other incentives for researchers to do so. We also wanted to chart whether the researchers were aware of how they could make their datasets visible as academic credentials, similarly to publications.

According to the template for researcher’s curriculum vitae, published on the website of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity, it is possible to add merits related to the production and distribution of research results and research data to one’s CV. The FSD offers a model citation of a dataset which can be used in a CV. None of the persons answering our questions were aware of how the FSD’s bibliographic citation could be used nor of the fact that there is a section in the template for researcher’s curriculum vitae where a citation to a dataset can be added.

We sent the questions by email to seven researchers across Finland and received answers from four of them.

University Researcher Eriikka Oinonen, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere

  1. photoIt is a good thing that datasets are not forgotten on a hard drive or in a drawer. It is important that they are utilised to their maximum potential. Usually the researcher who is responsible for the data collection studies the data only from one perspective.

    From the point of view of a researcher, there is no actual harm in research funders’ archiving requirements as long as the rules and principles are clear. It is not always obvious how to manage different types of data. For example, taking depositing into account when applying for funding is difficult if the dataset contains visual material created by someone else than a research participant or the researcher. In cases like this, the textual material collected or recordings made refer to the visual material and can’t be understood without it. However, intellectual property rights can restrict adding the visual material to the dataset.

    There is altogether too little discussion about whether all datasets can be archived and whether there are datasets that cannot be archived at all. Furthermore, researchers too often assume that data cannot be made available for reuse on ethical grounds. Research ethical principles are treated as a sort of monster that prevents pretty much everything. These issues should be comprehensively addressed in doctoral education.

  2. I didn’t.

  3. I will add the citation to my CV now that you told me about it.

Senior Research Scientist Kati Pitkänen, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

  1. photoIn my opinion, the recommendation is a good thing; a lot of work goes into collecting data and collected data could often be used in a more versatile manner than what the original funding allows. I think many datasets are not utilised to their full potential. Another important thing is the possibility of using datasets as a basis when a researcher is planning his or her own data collection and the possibility of using a dataset as an example or even collecting comparative data.

    However, there are also problems. From the point of view of a data depositor, one problem can be competition in publishing. The publication process may take years which makes it possible for someone else to start research on the openly available dataset in the meantime. For this reason, a researcher may be reluctant to deposit a dataset right after it is ready and wants to wait until he/she has made use of the privilege. Often, a depositor is not an individual researcher but a research group or a unit, which means that there are multiple interests when it comes to using and depositing the data.

    This may result in a lot of the archived data being old, which limit their usefulness. In addition to data becoming outdated, I think another problem is that the focus of current funding instruments is on the collection of new data. At least many people seem to think so. This can, at worst, lead to research funding being practically used only for data collection with no time left for careful analysis and writing publications.

  2. Even though I have written my CV according to the instructions of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity, I had not noticed that data deposition could be added in the CV. Thank you for the tip!

  3. See my answer to the previous question.

Professor Katriina Siivonen, Ethnology, University of Helsinki

  1. photoIn my own field, ethnology, this is taken for granted. Archiving data and archival studies are part and parcel of research in our field. In qualitative research, depositing the data into a public archive is the only means to enable the assessment of validity and reliability of a single study, as all research situations and data are unique and there is no repeatability in data collection. Secondly, ethnological data are, and have been, available for other researchers and they have approached them from new perspectives in new studies. In such studies, the data can originate from several decades ago.

    So, in my opinion, research funders’ requirement of making data available for others is justified. I think it is a good idea for original data collectors to have the possibility to put an embargo on the data while their own research is ongoing, if the dataset is deposited for archiving before the completion of research. Of course, durations of such embargos should be reasonable, for example, in case the original data collectors never complete their research. The privacy of respondents must also be ensured.

  2. I had not noticed this.

  3. I did not know this either, so I have not done so.

Researcher Susan Erikson, Juvenia – Youth Research Centre, Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences (Mamk)

  1. Strictly requiring depositing might not be the best way, but recommendations can always be made. Readily available data are used too little in academic research, and in my own projects I have aimed to promote the depositing of data.

  2. I did not.

  3. I had not. I did now that you mentioned it.