The Holistic Librarian – Thing 4: sharing means caring

Hi, I’m Afzal, your Subject Librarian for Arabic, and Politics.

Task 4: If a researcher came to you asking how they could share their research data with somebody external to the University what would you recommend?

What I knew about the topic beforehand:

That there are Facebook type networking sites for researchers of all disciplines such as where researchers can get to know one another’s work, and share meta-data and even collaborate to a limited extent but not in real time: this is through the usual means such as emailing, file attachments, web page sharing, perhaps you tube, LinkedIn.  Given the nature of research and links to funding there is reluctance to share Data in the way it is done within a department or institutional project.  

What I know now:

Whilst researchers can exchange their data via USB sticks, external hard drives even conventional post, there aren’t any data collaborative forums or ‘data internets’. This is because of the lack of standards, policies, and consensual sharing guidelines, differing copyright laws, university and institutional regulations which would satisfy researchers.

Sharing is practically limited to the researcher’s institution, where data sharing contracts would be in place.

How did you obtain this knowledge?

I came to the above answer by entering ‘data sharing researchers’ in Google. I didn’t really finding ‘Data Rooms’ where the world’s researchers come together and ‘chat data’ – (Of course, these data rooms would have protective security locks). The results invariably focused on individual organisations e.g. at Edinburgh. I was expecting some kind of inter-institutionally owned ‘data labs’.

What else would you like to know about the topic?

Where do we go from here given the emphases being placed on collaborative and group research at the funding level and Open Access at the output level. This surely cannot be limited to an individual institution anymore: for instance, how do researchers from Oxford, Bristol, and the Max Planck Institute share data – is progress being made to enable this?

How did you find this task? How would you improve it?

Disappointing answers owing to a lack of developed national strategy, which will not help us progress. To improve: provide ‘model’ responses to all the tasks.

Posted under Holistic Librarian, Training

This post was written by Afzal Hasan on January 25, 2013

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1 Comment so far

  1. Hannah Lloyd-Jones January 29, 2013 10:12

    Hi Afzal,

    When thinking about this topic, it may be helpful to think about the different stages when a researcher may want to share their data.

    I think that there are two:

    1. During a project – at this stage it is probable that a researcher would only want to share data with others working on the same project, whether they are external or internal to the University.
    2. At the end of a project – at this point a researcher may want/be required to share their data openly e.g. through an Open Access repository after a period of embargo.

    Thanks for your comment about providing “model” responses – as this will be a self-directed learning course, we wouldn’t want those who do it to just copy a “perfect” answer that is given to them before they complete the “thing” – the idea is that you find out how much you know already and how you would go about fleshing out your understanding. I think that we will provide some useful links to those doing the course before they do the task though when we roll it out!

    Best wishes,


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