As part of a continuing series, at the end of 2016 we broadcast a Digital Science thought leadership webinar on The State of Open Data. The aim of these webinars is to provide the very latest perspectives on key topics in scholarly communication.

During Open Access week in October 2016, Figshare released the results of its global survey of 2,000 researchers in a report that assesses the global landscape around open data and sharing practices.  “The State of Open Data” report has been viewed by nearly 18,000 people. Our webinar looked at the key findings of this report, the global state of open data and emerging policies for open research data in the US and Europe.

Our speakers included:

  • Jon Treadway – Director of Operational Strategy at Digital Science.
  • Dr Sabina Leonelli – Associate Professor in the College of Social Science.
  • Heather Joseph – Executive Director of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).
  • Aki MacFarlane – Research Analyst in the Open Research team at the Wellcome Trust.
  • Deni Auclair – serves both as the Delta Think CFO and as a Senior Analyst

Laura Wheeler (@laurawheelers), Community Manager at Digital Science, started the webinar by giving a brief overview of the esteemed panel and their backgrounds before handing over to Dan Valen, from Figshare, who moderated and questioned the panel.

Jon Treadway started his presentation by talking about how the report came about. Jon talked us through the stages involved in undertaking the survey and the partnership with SpringerNature to ensure coverage went beyond Figshare users. The survey had over 2,000 respondents, giving a diverse set of parameters to look at.

“If you’re interested about the sector’s attitude to open data it’s natural to assume a certain selection bias in Figshare users that we wanted to overcome”

During the rest of Jon’s presentation, he referred to the major findings of the study and highlighted correlations of note. For instance, respondents are more likely to make data open or reuse open data if they:

  • produce large files from their research
  • produce large numbers of files from their research
  • know where funds will come from to make data open
  • actively annotate their data
  • use Figshare and Github, versus other tools for sharing data

Key findings:


“It’s true to say that we were pleasantly surprised to see that open data is here and it is now!”

Follow the link in Dan’s tweet below to see the Open Data survey run by SpringerNature.

After Jon, Dr Sabina Leonelli gave a fascinating presentation on, ‘Spearheading a Sustainable Approach to Open Research Data’. Dr Sabina started by stating the challenges of making science open and then presented reasons why Open Data is valuable and why data sharing needs to be extensive, comprehensive, global and long-term.

“Given that the idea of openness in science has been around for a very long time, why is it that we haven’t managed to make science open earlier!”

Sabina finished on this note: Current data collections are very limited in scope and difficult to re-use by outsiders. Careful consideration needs to be given to what is disseminated, why, how and with which priority and time-line!

Next up, we had Heather Joseph talking about ‘Emerging Policies for Open Research Data in the United States’.

It was interesting to hear how Open Data legislation has changed during the last administration.

“We’ve had a very interesting last eight years watching open research data really take hold as a priority area here in the United States.”


The Holdren Memo led to some big changes:

  • Protecting confidentiality and personal privacy;
  • Recognizing proprietary interests, business confidential information and IP rights;
  • Balancing value of long-term preservation & access with costs and administrative burdens.

Heather left us with an important message:

“Open research data (has been) a priority for us for the last eight years and we were really hopeful that it would continue but we have a question that’s on everyones mind – will this in fact continue to be a priority going forward… we have structures in place, like the Open Science Working Group, that are committed to moving this forward. We have those plans in 17 of our 19 agencies.”

After Heather, Aki Macfarlane talked about her team at Wellcome and their activities in making research more open. Similar to The State of Open Data report, Wellcome also published a report called the ‘Researcher Attitudes Survey’. Other activities include the Wellcome Open Research Publishing Platform and the Open Science Prize.

Headline results:


“At Wellcome, we have taken away from some of the research we’ve been doing a few different actions – there is a need for us to take a look at our own policies and find out how we can better incentivise our own researchers and by extension hopefully encourage the research community to share more!… Above all, it’s really important to work in partnership with others!”

To finish a highly entertaining and informative webinar we had Deni Auclair talking about ‘Moving Toward Open Data Based on the Delta Think Open Access Investigation‘. Deni provided a ‘higher level view of Open Data’ and attempted to predict how open data will change and evolve ‘down the road’.

“Everyone is in the same boat trying to find the right solution.”

The bottom line:

  • Infrastructure is key
  • Effective citation standards lacking
  • Methods of assigning credit lacking
  • Depends on local operations
  • Lots of nuances in the marketplace

The webinar ended with a lively Q&A debate spearheaded by Dan Valen; great questions invoked great responses! Using #DSwebinar, our audience was able to interact with our panel throwing their opinions into the mix. If you feel you still have something to say – we’re all ears! Tweet us @digitalsci using #DSwebinar.

View Full Webinar Recording Here