The State of Open Data Report 2023: Support for researchers still lacking
Surveying over 6000 researchers worldwide, the report from Digital Science, Figshare and Springer Nature provides key evidence of the persisting challenges associated with open data sharing as well as the potential impact of future technologies.
Tuesday 14 November 2023
In the eighth annual The State of Open Data report released today, almost three quarters of surveyed researchers overwhelmingly said they are still not getting the support they need to share their data openly. Such data highlights the increased need for greater community collaboration and tools to support researchers in the move to sustainable open science practices.
For the remaining 23% of respondents who had sought and received support with data sharing, the support primarily came from internal sources (colleague/supervisor – 61%), followed by institutional libraries (31%), research office / in-house institutional expertise (26%), publishers (21%) and funders (17%).
“The State of Open Data Report has become a unique, long-term resource chronicling the establishment of open data, attitudes towards it, and researchers’ experiences of data sharing,” said Daniel Hook, CEO of Digital Science. “It’s my hope that readers of the report will not only better understand what the research community is experiencing and achieving now, but what the opportunities are for the future.”
Harsh Jegadeesan, Chief Publishing Officer, Springer Nature added: “By better understanding researchers’ motivations around open research we, as a community, can clearly see the roles we all need to play in driving accessible research forwards and harnessing the power of emerging technologies to move towards greater open science. Ensuring easy and open access to all parts of research supports accessibility, usability and reusability – and this is key in helping to ensure research can be built upon and gets into the hands of those that can effect change to tackle the world’s most challenging issues.”
Over 6000 researchers responded globally, with the highest proportion of responses from India (12%), China (11%) and the United States (9%). For the first time, this year we asked respondents about their experiences of using artificial intelligence (AI) to collect and share data. At a time when almost three-quarters of researchers surveyed say they have never received any support with making their data openly available, looking at the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for supporting the data-sharing process and benchmarking current attitudes may enable stakeholders across the research ecosystem to consider the future role that AI could play in the research process.
Other key findings from this year’s report show that:
- 60% of respondents believe that they receive too little credit for sharing their data – credit remains an ongoing concern for researchers and one that has reoccurred across The State of Open Data reports for the past 8 years – hindering the promotion of open science and sustainable data sharing practices by undermining incentives, trust, and collaboration;
- We need a more nuanced global approach to research data management – one size does not fit all. For example, there was a general consensus in favor of a national mandate for open research data (64%), with respondents from India and Germany displaying higher levels of support (both 71%) compared to other countries.
- Career stage is not a significant factor in open data awareness or support levels – more inclusive outreach is needed when organizing discussions, forums and panels in the open research space.
- AI awareness has not yet been translated into action – while almost half of respondents were aware of generative AI tools for data collection, processing, and metadata creation, most are not yet using them.
Speaking of this year’s findings Graham Smith, Open Data Program Manager, Springer Nature, said: “Researchers publishing in the last year are significantly more likely to share data due to a funder requirement than those publishing earlier. At Springer Nature we are taking concrete action to encourage researchers to share their data such as with our single data policy and requiring data availability statements. This, we believe, will help authors in opening up their data for further reuse and interrogation.”
Founder and CEO of Figshare Mark Hahnel said: “With this year’s report we have seen progress, alongside ever-recurrent themes. But we have also investigated further to see if there is greater consistency or indeed, clear disparities in responses across different countries, research subjects and career stages. Whilst a global funder push towards FAIR data has researchers globally moving in the same direction, it is important to recognize the subtleties in researchers’ behaviors based on variables in who they are and where they are.”
To build on this further this year also sees the first publication of a partner report by the Computer Network Information Center (CNIC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, looking at open data in China. That report is due out on 30 November 2023.
Springer Nature is a proactive partner to the research community, pioneering new approaches to data sharing and committed to supporting researchers in making data sharing the new normal. Learn more about Springer Nature’s engagement towards open data here.
The full State of Open Data report can be accessed on Figshare: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.24428194
Update (30 November): The China version of the 2023 State of Open Data report is available on Figshare: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.24638301.v1
Join in the conversation at #StateOfOpenData
Find out more about the report at this Digital Science State of Open Data site.
Key findings via theme of the report:
1. Support is not making its way to those who need it
Almost three-quarters of survey respondents reported they had never received support with planning, managing or sharing their research data, despite the importance of support in the context of the global increase in open data policies and mandates. For those who did receive support for data sharing, it most often came from informal sources like internal colleagues or supervisors (61%). Other sources of support researchers could rely on were institutional libraries (31%), research office / in-house institutional expertise (26%), publishers (21%) and funders (17%).
2. One size does not fit all
Variations in responses from different geographic regions and academic disciplines underscore the need for a more nuanced global approach to research data management support. Notably, there was a general consensus in favor of a national mandate for open research data (64%), with respondents from India and Germany displaying higher levels of support (both 71%) compared to other countries.
3. Challenging stereotypes
While it is often thought that later career academics are opposed to progress, the results of the 2023 survey indicate that career stage is not a significant factor in open data awareness or support levels. This highlights the need for more inclusive outreach when organizing discussions, forums and panels in the open research space.
4. Credit is an ongoing issue
For eight consecutive years, The State of Open Data survey has revealed a recurring concern among researchers: the perception that they don’t receive sufficient recognition for openly sharing their data. In fact, 60% of respondents believe that they receive too little credit for sharing their data.
5. AI awareness hasn’t translated to action
For the first time this year, survey respondents were asked to indicate if they were using ChatGPT or similar generative AI tools for data collection, processing and metadata creation. The most common response to all three questions was: ‘I’m aware of these tools but haven’t considered it.’ In light of the fast-moving nature of AI tools and their applications, The State of Open Data will continue to measure developments in this area in coming surveys.
About Digital Science
Digital Science is an AI-focused technology company providing innovative solutions to complex challenges faced by researchers, universities, funders, industry and publishers. We work in partnership to advance global research for the benefit of society. Through our brands – Altmetric, Dimensions, Figshare, ReadCube, Symplectic, IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, Overleaf, Writefull, OntoChem, Scismic and metaphacts – we believe when we solve problems together, we drive progress for all. Visit www.digital-science.com and follow @digitalsci on X or on LinkedIn.
Figshare is a Software-as-a-Service repository solution for institutions. Its infrastructure and global community provide institutions with a platform for their researchers to share and preserve their research outputs – including large datasets – in a findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) way. Complete with altmetrics and citation data, researchers get credit for all their outputs. Figshare is part of Digital Science. Visit www.figshare.com and follow @figshare on X.
About Springer Nature
For over 180 years Springer Nature has been advancing discovery by providing the best possible service to the whole research community. We help researchers uncover new ideas, make sure all the research we publish is significant, robust and stands up to objective scrutiny, that it reaches all relevant audiences in the best possible format, and can be discovered,accessed, used, re-used and shared. We support librarians and institutions with innovations in technology and data; and provide quality publishing support to societies.
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