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Sharing and reusing data

Share button category boxSharing research results is an established academic practice, whether through publication or through more informal means with colleagues and collaborators. The increasing digitisation of research means that it has never been easier to share data on a more detailed level. ‌Data created from research are valuable resources that can be used and reused in the future. The increasing awareness of the value of research data has led to an expectation that it will not only be used by the initial project, but also shared with the wider community.

If you're setting out on a research project, it's worth checking whether there's already data available that you might be able to use. This may show up as part of a literature review, but there are a number of dedicated data archives and repositories which you should take a look at too.

You can share your research data in three different ways:

  1. Make the data available in its entirety through open data (see below)
  2. Allow restricted access to the data
  3. Publicise metadata

By depositing research data in an archive or repository at the end of your project, you will make them accessible - even for your own future use. Please see the section on data repositories for more information.

What is open data?

Open data"Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike."

What is Open Data, Open Data Handbook

‌Scholarly publishing has seen a strong move towards open access to increase the impact of research, with open access journals and copyright policies enabling the deposit of outputs in open access repositories. The same movement also steers towards more open access of the underlying data - also known as Open Data - and evidence on which research publications are based. A growing number of journals require data that underpin research findings to be published in open access repositories when manuscripts are submitted.

Essentially, open data are the building blocks of open knowledge which is what open data becomes when it is:

  • useful;
  • usable; and
  • used.

The new RCUK policy on Open Access requires research papers to include a statement on how the underlying research materials (i.e. data) can be accessed. More information on Open Access (OA) in general can be found on the Library's OA pages.

What are the key features of openness?

  • Availability and access: The data must be available as a whole in a convenient and modifiable form.
  • Reuse and distribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit reuse and distribution.
  • Universal Participation: Everyone must be able to reuse and distribute.

The Principles and Benefits

Providing access to a project's underlying data is based on a number of principles:

  • it promotes the progress of research as a whole;
  • it allows for the validation and reproduction of research findings;
  • publishers and funding agencies are interested in data accessibility and reusability;
  • the public can feel more confident in scientific discoveries knowing that the supporting data is available; and
  • it enables the efficient and cost-effective creation of additional social and economic value.

More information

Sharing and reusing data:

Open data:

Image courtesy of d-Wise, accessed here.


Research Data team

University of St Andrews Library
North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9TR
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: (01334) 462343