Open Access/Open Data

This week is Open Access week, a celebration that promotes and raises awareness for the growing Open Access movement. There are a lot of great reasons to publish open access, including making research openly available and shifting away from an unsustainable journal pricing model, but I want to focus my celebration of Open Access week on Open Data.

Open Access and Open Data are very different but they share common values: accessibility, transparency, ease of information reuse, a return on investment for public funding, and advancing research. While Open Access publishing has taken off in the last few years, especially with the success of open journals like PLOS ONE and faculty-led mandates like the one from Harvard, the efforts to open up our research data are still developing. For this reason, I think it’s important to take a moment during Open Access week to talk about Open Data

What is Open Data?

Open Data is the idea that research data should be made available upon the publication of a paper and as part of peer review. Data sheds light onto the research process in a way that can’t be done with an article alone. With stories of fraud and irreproducible research increasingly in the news, we need methods like Open Data for detecting these issues earlier.

Another reason for Open Data is that the value of data is increasing in the current funding climate. Between more access to data and new tools for analysis and mining, we are able to conduct research that simply wasn’t possible before. With shrinking research budgets, data are valuable research products that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Why should I make my data open?

A good reason for Open Data comes from a recent study in PeerJ that found a 9% average increase in citation rates for papers that had open datasets as compared to papers without shared data. The citation increase was upwards of 30% for the older papers sampled, suggesting that this citation effect increases over time.

Opening up research data also benefits us by being able to work with data that we did not have access to before. Not having to produce all of the data ourselves is great thing, but that data has to come from somewhere. We must be willing to provide useful data to others if we want access to useful data for ourselves.

What can I do about Open Data?

The first step is simply to understand why there is movement toward Open Data, even if you personally choose not to share data. The way we conduct research is changing and we need to know how to navigate those changes in order to be successful. Open Data is not going to universally happen overnight, but the ever increasing momentum in this direction means we need to stay informed of the why’s and where’s.

For those a little more comfortable with the idea of Open Data, consider sharing an old dataset or a negative/unpublishable study. This is a great way to get credit for information that you are not actively using and it will familiarize you with the data sharing systems. From there, you can share more datasets as you choose or as requested by funders/journals/readers.

As a librarian, I’m also spending this week letting people know about Open Data. This blog post is one of the ways I’m doing that but I have also hung up a poster in my library:

In keeping with the open data theme, the files are openly available (both PDF and Adobe Illustrator files) for you to use and remix. One person has already used the files to make a poster for their library and I would love to see more versions!

Happy Open Access week!

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