Tips on managing and sharing data

It’s worth asking yourself whether you, your colleagues and collaborators are managing your data in such a way that you can maximise its re-use in the future. Regardless of whether you are working in an academic or a commercial environment, enabling the reuse of your data is becoming a central part of professional practice. There are several excellent papers to get you started (3-5). A wealth of information about open access, open science and open data is available from the FOSTER training portal.

When is open sharing not appropriate?

There are two major reasons that you might frequently come across for not openly sharing data:

  1. To protect the individual: any data relating to identifiable individuals is sensitive and should be protected by ethical policies. You can learn much more about this in our Biomedical data: Ethical, legal and social implications course. These data can still be shared in databases, but researchers wishing to access them must apply to the relevant ethics committee for permission to gain access to the data for their research.

  2. To protect intellectual property or other competitive information. If data are potentially commercially applicable (let’s say, for example, that you have been modelling the docking of zika virus onto transmembrane proteins and think you have evidence for a cell-surface-based target for therapy), the data can still be made publicly available but they should be protected first through appropriate patents.