28 July 2009

Maintaining the integrity and accessibility of research data

According to a new report by the National Academy of Science, "maintaining the integrity and accessibility of research data in a rapidly evolving digital age will take the collective efforts of universities and other research institutions, journals, agencies, and individual scientists."

The report recommends that researchers - both publicly and privately funded - make the data and methods underlying their reported results public in a timely manner, except in unusual cases where there is a compelling reason not to do so, such as concern about national security or health privacy. In such cases, researchers should publicly explain why data are being withheld. But the default position should be that data will be shared -- a practice that allows data and conclusions to be verified, contributes to further scientific advances, and allows the development of beneficial goods and services. Research data can be valuable for many years after they are generated -- for verifying results and generating new findings -- but maintaining high-quality and reliable databases can be costly, the report observes.

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