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Data Management

Data Sharing: Sharing Your Data

Many scholars will need to share their data publicly as a condition of grant funding or publication.  However, researchers are always encouraged to share their data; publicly available research data can help increase the visibility of projects and speed up the dissemination of discoveries among research communities.   

Data can be shared through direct, researcher-to-researcher contact; by hosting it on your personal website; or by submitting to a data repository.  Many grants will encourage researchers to share their data via a repository.  See the guide below for an overview of the issues involved in sharing data.  

​When you are thinking about how to best share research data, consider issues such as when will the data be shared, where will it be shared, who owns the data, are there privacy concerned (human subject data) that need to be addressed?

File Formats for Long-Term Access

As technology changes, researchers should plan for both hardware and software obsolescence and consider the longevity of their file format choices to ensure long term readability and access.

File formats more likely to be accessible in the future have the following characteristics:

  • Non-proprietary
  • Open, documented standard
  • Common usage by research community
  • Standard representation (ASCII, Unicode)
  • Unencrypted
  • Uncompressed

Examples of preferred file format choices include:

  • ODF, not Word
  • ASCII, not Excel
  • MPEG-4, not Quicktime
  • TIFF or JPEG2000, not GIF or JPG
  • XML or RDF, not RDBMS

From MIT - Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License

Re-use Rights of Your Data

If you are sharing your data via a repository, that venue will likely have established its own policies on the distribution and re-use of data.  Most are very permissive; other researchers will be able to use your data for their own projects.  

If you are not submitting your data to a repository, consider attaching a Creative Commons License to it.  This license will allow others the right to use data you have compiled free of charge, while ensuring that you receive credit as a creator.  Use the Creative Commons selection tool to choose a license that will suit your needs for your data.  Attach the license's legal code to your data documentation, or paste machine-readable code to your website.  

What Data Can Be Shared? Laws and Policies

Some projects may work with sensitive data, particularly those using human research subjects.  Therefore, it is important for researchers to consider where their data may raise security or privacy concerns.  

Sharing certain types of research data, particularly those which concern human subjects, may be restricted or controlled by law.  It is important to understand what legislation may affect your data before you take steps to share it.  The guide to Data Laws and Policies can help you start to determine whether or not your data may be restricted or protected, and the guide below offers tips on protecting your research subjects' privacy.