Almost half of researchers surveyed say they don’t know how to present data to make it useful for others

Organising data in a useful, presentable way is the biggest hurdle to sharing research data followed by worries about copyright, a survey of 7700 biological, Earth, medical and physical scientists has found.

The survey, carried out by the publishing company Springer Nature, revealed that 76% of researchers think it is important to make data generated by experiments available to others. This information helps researchers better understand or reproduce their colleagues’ experiments. However, in 2017, only about half of all data was shared. What is shared is often buried in supporting information files that vary wildly in format and content – a particular challenge for software gathering information for big data projects.

Springer Nature’s survey revealed that 46% of scientists found the biggest challenge to sharing data in organising their data so that others can discover and use it. For physical scientists this problem appeared even greater, with 57% citing organising data as the biggest hurdle to sharing it.

Moreover, researchers seem to be worried about the use and distribution of information they share: 37% of respondents said they were unsure about copyright and licensing. Lack of time and not knowing which repositories to use were only cited by 26% and 33% of respondents, respectively, as the major challenge to data sharing. These figures did, however, increase for early career researchers, 40% of which were uncertain about repository options and 43% had copyright worries.

Responding to the survey results, Springer Nature said they would focus on increasing awareness of good data management and providing easier routes to data sharing.