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KNAW publishes checklist for scientists looking to share data

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Are you planning to share your scientific data? If so, with whom and in what form? A checklist devised by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW in the Dutch acronym) is set to help researchers draw up their own data strategy.

Read in Dutch

Published in English, the document consists of several questions and follow-up questions scientists should ask themselves, including "what kind of data will the study produce" and "who will be given access to it?" A follow-up question would then be: "what are the ethical and legal thresholds?"

The checklist is part of a guideline published last week about the act of sharing scientific data. As with all checklists, KNAW's this list kicks at a number of open doors (of course researchers have to think about saving or destroying data) but the questions do offer a useful framework.

Fair
The guideline is not only directed at researchers, but also their employers and the government. After all, even though the current consensus is that data must be F.A.I.R. (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable), actual practice is less tractable.

In addition to issues about intellectual property and privacy, there are practical problems with the infrastructure for data storage and the ‘meta data’ that makes the information searchable, the Academy writes. Their conclusion: researchers have a “strong need for more guidance at the national level” in order to make data more accessible and usable.

Costs
The report also asks institutions to be clearer about the costs of data storage (who’s going to pay for it?) and the assistance of special data collaborators. Furthermore, institutions should be offering researchers help with legal and ethical issues.

Last but not least, anything that is demanded of scientists should also be demanded of businesses and government agencies in the Netherlands. These are “reciprocal obligations”, according to the Academy.

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