Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Data access and curation in Australia

Margaret Henty and three co-authors, Investigating Data Management Practices in Australian Universities, Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories, July 2008.

Universities around the world are experiencing an increasing emphasis on the need for effective data management and stewardship to underpin the changing research environment, as research becomes more dependent on data in digital form and computers and networks proliferate. Data is valuable from the moment of creation, not to mention expensive to collect, so there is no point in duplicating its collection. It might also be unique, representing a snapshot in time or space and therefore impossible to replicate. Data can be re-used, sometimes for purposes not originally dreamt of, and it can be re-analysed, either to check original results or to take advantage of new analytical techniques. There is increasing pressure to ensure that data should not go to waste, and for universities to develop the infrastructure needed to care for this invaluable resource....

[T]hree Australian universities decided to investigate the needs of their own communities. The initiative came from The University of Queensland (UQ) and was taken up by The University of Melbourne (UM) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT)....All three surveys were run in late 2007....

At a time when researchers are being encouraged to make their data available to others, it is pleasing to see that over three-fifths of respondents are willing to share their data, whether “openly” (8.6%), “via negotiated access” (44.0%), “only after the formal end of a project” (6.4%) or “only some years after the end of a project” (2.3%). In addition to these, a small proportion (0.8%) provides access through the Australian Social Science Data Archive, IATSIS or some other data archive. Some respondents pointed out that, in some cases, it is necessary for data to be made available together with journal publication, and it is likely that this is a trend which will grow.

About two-fifths of the respondents say that their data is never made available, for unexplained reasons (19.0%) or because of privacy or confidentiality issues (17.6%). About one-quarter of this group indicated that they would be willing to make their data available if “an easy mechanism” was available to do so....

The possibility of an easier mechanism to allow data deposit and access was welcomed by some, as in the following comments:

  • I readily share data with colleagues or students working on same or related project on an informal case by case basis. I would like to have access to an area where I could put data files for access and download by colleagues. Sending large files via email is not really possible, and sending data on CDs is also very time-consuming, especially with large files. I would very much welcome a solution to this problem that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to the researcher or school.
  • Currently this is achieved through project www sites and some formal international data repositories but having an easy to use infrastructure to deal with this would be excellent and I believe would represent a high value intellectual asset.
  • I have done this but there are no easy ways of doing it. I would very much like the Uni to offer such a service
  • A key aspect to [Research Centre] operations are electronic links to other organisations to facilitate customer access, manage data and integrate equipment. A standard framework for such access would facilitate such links.
  • Access is rather ad-hoc and depends on the instruments used. Would be preferable to have a central repository....