If you build it will they come? Data sharing infrastructure

Added by Branwen Hide on 21 October 2009 17:02

In March 2009, I wrote about how research data are increasingly being recognised as valuable resources in their own right.

 Behind this is the belief that by allowing researchers to have access to as much data as possible, they will be able to combine it in innovative ways leading to exciting new developments. Researchers, research funders and governments around the world increasingly agree that unhindered access to research data is ideal, with technology evolving rapidly to support it.

One of the key areas of growth needed to support data sharing is e-infrastructure. In the UK, the RIN is undertaking a review of the recommendations set out in the 2007 Office of Science and Innovation (OSI) report, Developing the UK?s e-infrastructure for Science and Innovation. The aim is to identify progress in developing the UK?s e-infrastructure provision and set out what UK public agencies might do to assist with this development.

One thing that needs to be considered is how the UK infrastructure will tie in with other developments around the world. If these different initiatives are not interoperable then it will ultimately block the sharing of resources, in this case data, globally. In Europe the Partnership for Advanced Data in Europe (PARADE) recently published a white paper on the Strategy on European data infrastructure. The consortium, which includes initiatives such as ELIXIR, and CLARIN, aims to link with the various European initiatives addressing data related issues, such as the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and e-Infrastructure Reflection Group (e-IRG).

Infrastructure and policy statements are also needed to ensure the information is accessible years from know by future generations. Therefore, the PARSE.Insight project focuses on the infrastructure need to preserve digital information in the sciences and is closely linked with the Alliance for Permanent Access.

 One must not forget the substantial developments occurring in the US. The Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OIC), which is part of the National Science Fondation (NSF), is responsible for coordinating and supporting the acquisition, development and provision of e-infrastructure resources, tools and services. It is also worth mentioning the Blue Ribbon Task Force which is supported by an number of US organisations as well as the JISC, and sets out to examine the economic viability of electronic preservation.

 So is this a case of ?if you build it they will come?? Well it seems not. Though some data centres and repositories are very well used and stocked, there still is not large scale data sharing. Researchers? attitudes to data creation and sharing are not necessarily keeping pace in all disciplines, as discussed in our own work, To share or not to share, and recent articles in both Nature and Science. These all highlight some important barriers to large scale uptake of data sharing, and clearly indicate that many of them are actually cultural. Thus a major culture shift is required if we want to encourage data sharing, but getting cultural change to happen is often difficult to obtain in a short period of time.

The question still remains: How do we make sure that all this infrastructure is actually useful and utilized?

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