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Store your data safely to improve your research greatly

Researchers who make their data presentable and store them in a repository will reap the benefits in the future, speakers at a conference on data publishing have said.

Publishing Better Science Through Better Data, a conference hosted by the Nature Publishing Group, took place in London on 14 November. Delegates were told that researchers who stored and shared their data in a presentable form could boost their citation count and find it easier to return to the data for further research in the future. “Preserve it, encourage reuse and get credit,” said Andrew Hufton, the managing editor of the publishing group’s data journal Scientific Data.

David Carr, a policy adviser at the Wellcome Trust, said that many funders—including his own organisation—agreed that data publication should be a requirement for funding. But publishing data can also increase researchers’ visibility and credibility, make it easier to assess the reproducibility of research, and reduce the amount of research that is being duplicated, he said. It could also be a valuable resource for policymakers and healthcare professionals.

Hufton said that a survey in 2011 carried out prior to the launch of Scientific Data revealed that 75 per cent of data were not being shared, despite the fact that there was plenty of willingness among researchers to share their data.

Researchers should be preparing their data for long lifespans, Hufton said, especially given that the UK research councils have expressed a preference for researchers to have a data storage plan in place. “Make sure your data are well structured and make sure you’re collecting your data with lots of information around them.”

Hufton encouraged delegates to be careful in choosing a repository: “If you know of a repository within your academic community that is familiar with your data, then value it. The repository will be able to advise you on handling the data, and will likely have curators on hand to tidy data and present them neatly. This will benefit the dissemination of your research.” He also told researchers to look for a repository committed to long-term preservation. “Don’t be afraid to ask how they are funded, and for how long,” he said.

“This thing is coming,” said Mark Hahnel, founder of Figshare, a cloud-based repository. “People who are on top of their data ahead of these changes will already have an advantage in their research.”

This article also appeared in Research Fortnight