Share your data, share yourself

This is the third post drawn from a talk that I gave last year at the University of Melbourne Researcher@Library event. Thanks to all involved!


A beautiful old door, with a big old lock and a tiny little new lock.

Old door, new lock, by Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr

In the first of these articles, I talked about breaking out of your university bureaucracyThe second was about breaking funding boundaries. Both of those were written from the point of view of someone sitting securely within an organization, trying to break out.

But sometimes you end up working outside your organization. It might be because you choose to leave, or (more likely) because your organisations doesn’t want you anymore. It doesn’t matter how successful you are as a researcher and a lecturer if your whole area is wiped out in a restructure. Or you might be a casual or adjunct, paid by the hour, who is only tentatively linked to one or more universities. Or a researcher on a limited term contract, fueled by soft money, with no certainty of work next year.

Modern universities preserve no loyalty to their staff. As a result, I don’t think that we need to feel much loyalty to our universities.

Whatever the reason, you should push your identity out beyond the boundaries of the organization where you work, or build up one if you are independent. Here are three useful ways to do that, beyond social media. Read more of this post

Allow me to introduce myself

My university, like many others, is racing to embrace an open future. We are putting stuff into our repository as fast as we can. Each item has a unique identifier, like an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), so that we know exactly which book or paper we are talking about.

We are also encouraging staff to share their research data, where they can. We are working with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), through their Cite My Data service, to make sure that these data sets also have Digital Object Identifiers.

Excitingly, these identifiers will link the papers, chapters, artworks, and (insert your favourite research output here) with the data sets. How cool is that? When I write my groundbreaking libretto, drawing on my amazing new data set, everybody will know exactly which dataset was used in exactly which libretto.

And everybody will know exactly which ‘me’ did it, because I’ll have included my ORCID ID, Scopus Author ID, Google Scholar ID, or my (insert your favourite researcher ID scheme here).

Everyone will know, that is, except for my university. My university will just have to guess.

Read more of this post

Publishing your data: the licensing issue

Margaret HentyMargaret Henty was Senior Policy Advisor with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

In practice, this meant looking at all of those legal and policy issues which have an impact on data sharing and use, such as copyright, licensing, ethics, Gov 2.0, etc and keeping an eye on developments overseas.

ANDS is building the Australian Research Data Commons: a cohesive collection of research resources from all research institutions, to make better use of Australia’s research data outputs.


An ancient Chinese cheque covered in official red stamps

Providing funds for suppressing the Heavenly Kingdom, by Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr

This is the fourth and last in my series on the whys and wherefores of data publishing. This time, I’m going to talk about data licensing.

The idea of licensing data might not be familiar to you, so it might be good to start by talking about why you need to consider this very important aspect of sharing your data.

Imagine that you are a scientist, and you have collected some important data. Imagine, too, that two researchers in other research institutions have also been working on the same topic and they have data too. You’d really like to get hold of their data and combine it with your own to do some kind of meta-analysis. So, you write to them and they are happy to let you have their data.

When the two files arrive, one is accompanied by a copyright and licensing statement that says what you can and cannot do with the data. This is in lengthy legalese and you have to work out whether they allow you to do the kind of analysis you want to do. The other data file has nothing at all. This means that the data is copyright to the creator or their employer, it might be hard to tell which. You are not particularly familiar with copyright law so you might have to get help to sort out the implications. Read more of this post

Publishing your data: the ethics question

Margaret HentyMargaret Henty is Senior Policy Advisor with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

In practice, this means looking at all of those legal and policy issues which have an impact on data sharing and use, such as copyright, licensing, ethics, Gov 2.0, etc and keeping an eye on developments overseas.

ANDS is building the Australian Research Data Commons: a cohesive collection of research resources from all research institutions, to make better use of Australia’s research data outputs.


Kwakiutl mask and unidentified boy (circa 1920; source: Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation)

Kwakiutl mask and unidentified boy (circa 1920; source: Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation)

Last April, I published a short item in this blog about the importance of data citation if you are to get recognition for publishing your data and making it available to others.

There is increasing evidence that making your data available to others (or, to use a more familiar term, publishing your data) can enhance your research reputation. But consider the case of researchers whose work involves human subjects who might feel that their data cannot be published. This presents something of a challenge: how to handle sensitive data so that others can use it, while following ethical guidelines and making sure that the data cannot be wrongly used.

Data can be sensitive for a variety of reasons. Privacy considerations mean that personal, identified data cannot usually be made available to others. Security considerations might mean that you would be putting people at risk if you made some data available. You might also consider the possibility that your data describes the last remaining population of some rare species and, while most of the data might be fine to share, you don’t want anyone to put the species at risk by providing location information (think of the Wollemi Pine).

All is not lost.

READ MORE

Tattoo your data

Margaret HentyMargaret Henty is Senior Policy Advisor with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

In practice, this means looking at all of those legal and policy issues which have an impact on data sharing and use, such as copyright, licensing, ethics, Gov 2.0, etc and keeping an eye on developments overseas.

ANDS is building the Australian Research Data Commons: a cohesive collection of research resources from all research institutions, to make better use of Australia’s research data outputs.


Tattoos are big business at the moment.  People everywhere are adorning themselves with something to help make them feel a little more individual, something which belongs to them and no-one else.

Remapped back (from Kyle McDonald: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kylemcdonald)

Remapped back, from Kyle McDonald on Flickr

The data you create as part of your research can have its own tattoo, too.  It’s called a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). You’re probably familiar with the concept of the DOI being attached to your journal articles. Now you can also attach them to your data. It is something like a tattoo for your body, an electronic tag for your dog, or an ISBN for your book.

You should tattoo your data for the same reasons you tattoo your body (and for some bonus reasons, too):

  • It makes the data uniquely identifiable.
  • You will always be identified as the creator of the data.
  • Having a data tattoo means that your data can always be located with a simple web search.
  • It means your data can be cited, whether by someone else or by you and any data citations can be added to journal citations.
  • It means that usage of your data can be followed as others use and cite your data.

“So what?” I hear you ask. Well, changes are afoot in the research world, the kinds of changes which may well have an effect on the way reward structures in academe operate.  Currently, merit in the academic world is recognised by virtue of research publications in the form of books or journal articles (or in some cases, creative works).

Other types of research output have barely, if ever, been recognised.  This applies especially to research data, something which is routinely collected in the course of research and that forms the basis of all those publications.  Is it valuable?  Yes, it is, and not just to you.

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Data sharing in a time of data-intensive research

Margaret HentyMargaret Henty is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

Using Australia as a case study, she makes a convincing case for preserving and sharing your data.


There can’t be a researcher alive who isn’t accumulating data. This might come from instruments, or surveys, or photographs, or recordings, or emails … the list goes on. Managing your data is an issue, not just now but into the future so that you can use it again if you need to, or so that it can be made available to others.  “Made available to others?” I hear you protest.  “Why should I do that?”

I work with ANDS, the Australian National Data Service. Data is our business and our aim is to create the Australian Research Data Commons. ANDS is all about research data – managing it better so that we can use it to help solve the very considerable problems of the world.  We want to see data being better managed, better connected, visible to others and re-usable.

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