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To share or not to share ...

Share button category boxData sharing achieves many important goals for the research community and everyone benefits including you as researchers, funders, the research community, and, most importantly, the public. Data sharing also provides more effective use of public funds resources by avoiding unnecessary duplication of data collection, and enables conservations of funds to support more research. The benefits and a few reasons where data shouldn't be shared are highlighted below.

Why should we share our research data?

There are a number of reasons why you may consider sharing your own research data. As well as now being a requirement of most research funders that data is shared wherever possible, benefits include:

  • The impact and visibility of the research: those who make use of your data and cite it in their own research will help to increase your impact within your field and beyond it. Users of your data may include those in other disciplines, sectors, and countries. Also, shared data that is reused can be used by researchers as evidence of impact for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF), for example.
  • It maximises transparency where appropriate.
  • It minimises data collection from the hard-to-reach (e.g. ill, elites, etc.).
  • It may enhance your reputation.
  • It may increase citations. For example, open access journal articles and datasets are cited two to three times more (Source: UK Data Archive, 2012).
  • It can help establish links to the next generation of researchers.
  • Some publishers require authors to make data available as a condition of publishing. There is also a growing trend to link publications to the datasets which underpin the findings.
  • It advances research when datasets are combined in new and innovative ways.
  • It can lead to new collaborations and partnerships.
  • You can make the best use of investment by avoiding replication.

For information, SHERPA JULIET provides a searchable international database of funders' open access and archiving requirements.

Are there any reasons why we shouldn't share our data?

The following issues may affect whether you can or should share your data:

  • Intellectual property
  • Commercial potential
  • Privacy

Sensitive and confidential data can, however, often be shared ethically if informed consent for data sharing has been given, subjects' identities are anonymised (if needed) or consideration is given to access restrictions. These measures should be planned from the beginning of your research to ensure that you are not limiting future opportunities to share your data.

The UK Data Archive has a guide on consent, confidentiality and ethics as part of their Managing and Sharing Data guide, and they provide brief Guidance on Anonymisation. They have also compiled a list of Potential barriers to data sharing – with suggested solutions (PDF, 251 KB) that researchers have given.



More information


Research Data team

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

Tel: (01334) 462343