A reputation economy: how individual reward considerations trump systemic arguments for open access to data

Recently, VU researcher Sascha Friesike and colleagues published the article "A reputation economy: how individual reward considerations trump systemic arguments for open access to data" in the open access journal Palgrave Communications. The researchers investigated why—despite clear benefits for the academic system as a whole—most researchers shy away from making their primary data openly available.

09/25/2017 | 4:17 PM

The authors make out three major potentials of academic data sharing. The first is a synergetic potential, when “old” data is re-used for new research questions and thus the duplication of data collection can be prevented. The second potential is a quality potential, where the underlying data of published studies is used to conduct data-driven replication studies and therefore verifying published results. The third potential is an innovation potential, when data is used for new methodological approaches, for instance in meta-analyses or semantic text analyses. Accordingly, the authors see a tremendous potential in open access to research data for scientific progress. 

The scientific system would benefit immensely from the publication of datasets. Yet, in practice it hardly happens. The authors asked 1564 scientists across disciplines and found surprising insights into why researchers do not make their primary data available. By and large, researchers are not afraid of being falsified. Most researchers actually agree that access to primary data would improve the scientific system and that they themselves would appreciate the validation of their results. Further, monetary incentives do hardly motivate any of the researchers to share. 

Friesike and his colleagues found that scientists regardless of their discipline consider academia a reputation economy. Academics strive to increase their reputation, which is almost solely tied to academic journal publications. This also means that there is not sufficient reputational gain in publishing primary data. Instead it is time consuming and even worse, it may provide the opportunity for others to publish something that the researchers who collected the data, might want to publish him/herself. The authors of the article conclude that in order to tap into the vast potential that is attributed to academic data sharing new policies are needed that follow the guiding principle of reputation instead of obligation: the publication of datasets must come with a reputational benefit otherwise few researchers will fully adopt this practice. 

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Sascha Friesike - researchAbout Sascha Friesike 
Sascha Friesike joined the KIN Research group in January 2017. Before coming to Amsterdam he was a professor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Würzburg in Germany and a research coordinator at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin. Sascha is an industrial engineer by training and holds a Ph.D. in technology management from the University of St.Gallen (2011). He is interested in how technology can help in opening science and the role it can play in creative processes