Local Data Global Impact – The Seeding the Commons Data Project

University of Western Sydney Library

June 2012


Many funding bodies now hold the position that the public has a right to freely access publications and data resulting from publicly funded research. Several major overseas funding bodies have mandated the deposit of such publications and related data in an institutional repository. The National Medical and Health Research Council (NHMRC)  has lead the charge in Australia, mandating from July 2012 the deposit of publications arising from NHMRC funded research into an institutional repository within 12 months of publication. Professor Warwick Anderson, CEO of the NHMRC states, at The Conversation, that improving access to publicly funded data is next on their agenda.

Big Picture

Publications containing analysis of data have until recent years been seen as the most legitimate output of research. The related data has stayed in the background, stored in hardcopy in filing cabinets or on laptops/hard drives with no backup. Sharing of the raw data was not encouraged, either to verify research claims or to use for new purposes. But culture around data sharing is changing and participation in this national project will provide an additional portal to showcase UWS researchers and their data to the international scholarly community.

Along with most major Australian research institutions, UWS has embarked on an Australian National Data Service (ANDS)( funded research data catalogue project. Seeding the Commons aims to register, describe and where possible provide open access to Australia’s research data – In essence building a National data library for Australia. Research Data Australia (RDA) is the portal through which this information is made available to the international scholarly community. RDA aims to link all information surrounding the data, such as researchers, their affiliations, publications analysing the data, grants funding the data, Field of Research (FOR) codes, keywords and related datasets- a complete picture of a research project. The actual data remains with the researcher/institution.

The UWS Journey To Date

At UWS the project is a collaboration between the Library, eResearch team, Office of Research Services, UWS research community and ITS.

Core stakeholders collaborated to identify UWS researchers or units having data which could be shared, or at least described. Identified parties are systematically being invited to participate and offered the following reasons to do so:

  • Data can be stored (and a citable profile created) in the new UWS Research Data Repository to ensure its long term preservation and accessibility.

  • Studies show a citable profile for research data can increase citations to that data and related publications.

  • May increase collaborative opportunities as metadata describing research is included in Research Data Australia (RDA) along with the data. RDA is harvested by Trove (National Library of Australia’s repository of Australian material), Google, Google Scholar and other search engines ensuring research may be discovered by a wide international audience.

  • Opportunity to draw data from other fields to assist with multidisciplinary research questions

  • Avoid duplication of research effort

  • Verify research claims

  • Data deposit in RDA will ensure compliance with some journal publication requirements, funding body mandates and the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct for Research.

  • A number of reputable scientific journals now require data related to publications be provided along with the article.

To date three data interviews have been completed and are currently undergoing quality assessment by ANDS before being tweaked and uploaded to RDA. Roger Dean from MARCS has made available (as an open access link) some data measuring the acoustical intensity of several musical pieces. These measurements have been stored and secured on the UWS Research Data Repository. Dr Gang Zheng prefers interested researchers contact him to obtain his diffusion coefficient data so he is aware of who is interacting with it. Five films depicting various aspects of the Hawkesbury Agricultural College are currently available on the UWS Archives site. A link to these films, and metadata about them will also be included in RDA.

In the Pipeline

A PhD candidate from the MARCS Institute was required to provide an open access link to his raw data with a paper he wanted to submit to an open access journal. This data is now in the RDR, the link provided and the paper submitted.

The Nanoscale Organisation and Dynamics Group is regularly asked to supply pulse sequences to external researchers. They plan to deposit sets of sequences into the RDR and provide an unmediated link in RDA so interested parties can ‘help themselves’ to the data, thus saving time for all concerned.

The Challenges

“Sharing my data will erode my competitive advantage”

Researchers with this concern could still participate by describing their data and requesting interested parties contact them to discuss the possibility of sharing. This could create new opportunities for collaboration.  

“My data is covered by ethics approval so can’t be shared”

Not necessarily. An ethics variation may be possible under some circumstances to allow the sharing of de-identified data. Other universities have gone down this path and we are investigating it at UWS. Alternatively the data could still be described and may still provide collaborative opportunities.

“I don’t have time to participate”

We understand time is precious, so the data interview questionnaire is pre-populated by Library staff with information already available, to minimise the amount of time away from research activities.

Moving Forward

If you would like to know more about the project, or have data to describe, secure, and/or share, we would love to hear from you. To participate in the national data registry project please contact Susan Robbins s.robbins@uws.edu.au or 9852 5458. To request data storage space, please contact Peter Sefton p.sefton@uws.edu.au.

Copyright Susan Robbins 2012. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia.