Feb 20, 2015

Repository features to motivate more data sharing

One of the challenges of creating data stewardship infrastructure is engaging the users and meeting and prioritizing their needs, particularly the needs of long-tail science research. "What would motivate researchers to make their data available?" is a question we continuously grapple with. A recent study "Potential contributor perspectives on desirable characteristics of an online data environment for spatially referenced data" published in First Monday asked a very similar question in the context of geographic data. The researchers hypothesized that potential data contributors of small scale, local spatial data would be more willing to share their data if a repository included a simple, clear licensing mechanism, a simple process for attaching descriptions to the data, and a simple post-publication peer evaluation/commenting mechanism.

The paper draws on 10 qualitative interviews and 110 responses to an online questionnaire. The qualitative interview responses were mixed; they don't seem to reveal any patterns or unusual concerns. Some of the quantitative results were also mixed, but some provide good numbers to support the hypotheses:

  • 90% of respondents said attribution (licensing) is important
    • 62% think that non-commercial attribution is important
    • 54% think that restricting re-use is important, i.e., others may use the data but not modify it in any way
  • 93% said ability to attach keywords or other descriptions to data is important
  • 78% said that commenting capability is important
  • 85% said that stability and long-term maintenance of the repositories matters


This research, subject to the caveats listed below, suggests that it would be desirable from the perspective of potential contributors of data to provide infrastructure capability that would:

  • allow users to attach conditions to the use of their data;
  • provide basic information that could be translated into standards based metadata; and,
  • receive comments and feedback from users.