Do you know any example where data sharing benefitted not only the sharer but the whole community?

+5 votes
asked Oct 4, 2015 in Open Science by Nadia
There are examles when sharing data brings more visibility to a scientist.

I wonder if you know of any example of somebody sharing data and somebody else (or a group of people) actually benefitting from that shared information?

2 Answers

+3 votes
answered Oct 5, 2015 by Christian Pietsch (205 points)
selected Nov 23, 2015 by ArtOfCode
Best answer

Let me try a broad answer: Empirical research does not work without data. Either you collect data yourself, or somebody else does. The more people replicate your study, the more credible your research results become. Replicating studies is hard, but without access to the original research data, it is often close to impossible. So everybody benefits from data sharing.

Of course, replication attempts can also reveal weaknesses in the original study. The (in)famous Rogoff & Reinhart case is summarized in the introduction to the Conquaire project proposal: Due to one faulty spreadsheet, entire national economies were at risk until Thomas Herndon, a student, got hold of it and checked the math. (I am counting code and other analysis procedures as a kind of research data.)

I think this case is atypical in the extent it damaged the reputation of the original authors. Any replication attempt will generate citations of the original study, so their authors' reputation will go up. Looking beyond pure replication, any kind of data re-use will produce acknowledgments. But you never doubted that data sharing is good for the sharers, so I stop here.

commented Oct 5, 2015 by Nadia (35 points)
Thanks, this is also a very good example!
+3 votes
answered Oct 4, 2015 by Pawel_Szczesny (30 points)
Half of experimental biology is such an example. In structural biology Protein Data Bank (probably the oldest scientific database with open data) was built to share the data for the benefit of the whole community. Ft. Lauderdale agreement that covered sharing pre-publication data in genomics was aiming at the same goal. Merck (and lated GSK) shared some of their genomics data and it clearly benefited cancer research community.
commented Oct 5, 2015 by Nadia (35 points)
Thanks, I like the PDB example. For the GSK/Merck example I would need some more details. Many organisations share genomic data, whether there are clear (positive) implications for the cancer research (or any other) community is a big question. Yes, you can say that they share data and contribute to research but this is what everybody is doing in this way or other (mainly in the form of publications). Thanks again for the answer!

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