How data sharing can advance your academic career

How data sharing can advance your academic career

Academic institutions encourage early career researchers like graduate students and postdocs to share their research findings by publishing articles in journals and presenting them at departmental meetings, lectures and conferences. They also recommend sharing findings with popular media (online and offline) and connect with other academics via social media and digital platforms.

Uploading a preprint on well-reputed websites is also a good way to rapidly share research outcomes to a wider audience and attract the attention of journals and the academic community. Preprints can be cited in research articles and discussed on social media. Unlike journal articles, they can be updated to respond to feedback and include additional data.

Funding agencies do recognise academic and public engagement as ways to generate impact, even requesting examples of diffusion activities in grant applications. Being able to communicate your research in a concise and jargon-free way is also beneficial for academic job interviews as some members of the panel might not be specialised in your field. This is also important when seeking a collaboration with industry and other stakeholders within a community.

Sharing data from published articles

When you deposit your accepted article in a university repository, it can be found by researchers from other institutions across the world. Data sharing increases the potential of citations to your article and many journals allow authors to cite datasets among their references. Repositories rank well with search engines, especially in resources like Google Dataset Search.

Data sharing can generate collaborations to build on the data you have diffused and allow others to test the validity of your results, which enhances the veracity and robustness of your research.

After you have decided which parts of your data you want to share, you need to check the policies of your funding agencies and the journal you have published it in. There are several repositories available online, besides those provided by your university or funder. It’s best to identify the one used by scientists in your field and include a data availability statement, which might have already been submitted to the journal with your manuscript. Some journal publishers might have their own platforms for this and dedicated publications.

International bodies such as the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and the European Commission, have been championing open access to scientific findings and endorsed data-management standards known as FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable).

Concerns about data sharing and useful resources

Many early-career researchers are concerned that sharing their data at an early stage might lead to being scooped by a competing research team. There are also so many options to share datasets and less-experienced academics might be unsure how to curate their data so it could be accessible and useful to others.

An article in Nature entitled ‘Data sharing and how it can benefit your career’ offers some suggestions for online tools, comprising their own journal Scientific Data, altmetric (which includes social media shares) and the Jupyter Notebook, an open-source, online app that can help you create and share scientific data and text. Additional information on training and best practices is also included.

Most universities offer training and advice on how to share datasets; institutional libraries might have open access teams and/or dedicated advocates who can advise researchers on best practices, especially when thinking of sharing sensitive data from medical studies.

To find out more about the possibilities and barriers to sharing data, you can read the paper entitled ‘Open-access policy and data-sharing practice in UK academia’, which has a UK focus, but also lists papers and offers information on other countries.

 

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