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Research Data Management: Sharing Data

Information for researchers on data management.

Sharing data

Sharing data makes it possible for researchers to conduct synthetic and comparative studies, to validate research results, and to reuse data for teaching and further research. Furthermore, sharing can increase the impact of research (Piwowar 2007). Sharing is also required by an increasing number of funders and publishers. Funders seek to maximize the impact of the research they fund by encouraging or requiring data sharing. Publishers seek to ensure the research they publish is reproducible, and that sufficient information is included for the scholarly record.

Strategies for sharing

Data sharing encompasses all strategies by which an investigator might make their data available to a broader audience, including:


  • deposit to a discipline-specific data center (see re3data for a searchable list of repositories)
  • deposit to St. Thomas's digital repository (Research Online)
  • submission to a journal publisher in conjunction with a related publication
  • publication in a data journal
  • independently-developed infrastructure for data distribution

While there are many strategies for sharing, we recommended that researchers submit data to an established data system or repository whenever possible.  Depositing to an established repository will help to ensure that data are consistently available and accessible, and preserved for future use. While personal or lab websites, Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs), wikis, and similar tools may be sufficient for short term sharing, they are usually not great choices for the long term. The best solution will ensure that data is discoverable, accessible, and preserved over the long term. The Data Services librarian can help researchers select an appropriate repository, data journal, or other strategy for sharing data.

Choosing a repository

Repository policies will vary; confer with potential repositories or publishers to determine:

  • that they will accept the data
  • requirements for submission
  • long-term preservation policy
  • whether there are any fees associated with deposit

In order to identify potential places to publish or share data, researchers may:

  • locate an external service by consulting an online catalog of research data repositories
  • obtain assistance from the Data Services librarian to identify services, data centers, and repositories with which to publish data
  • inquire about publishing data in St. Thomas's repository, Research Online.

Issues and exceptions

Intellectual property issues related to research data are complex. Ownership of data may rest with the researcher, the institution, or the funder, depending on the nature of the researcher's appointment, grant contract conditions, and whether there are patent implications. There may be other circumstances that prevent data sharing in a data management plan.

Conditions for reuse

When sharing data, it is important to document any conditions for reuse. Documentation should include a description of any standard licenses applied to the data, as well as any additional terms of use. For an overview of issues associated with managing intellectual property rights in data projects, see Intellectual Property Rights in Data Management.

Private and confidential data, or data with commercial implications

Researchers may have ethical or legal obligations to maintain confidentiality and to protect the privacy of research subjects, or may have other circumstances requiring secure data storage or restricted access to data, such as licensing restrictions that prohibit data sharing. Data may also be part of a research project with commercialization potential. Funders and publishers recognize that there are legitimate circumstances under which an investigator cannot share their data, and a data management plan should explain those circumstances.


Sharing detailed research data is associated with increased citation rate. Heather A. Piwowar, Roger S. Day, Douglas D. Fridsma. PLoS ONE 2(3): e308. 2007. .

Data Services Librarian

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Jim Kelly
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