Ten lessons for data sharing with a data commons

Article by Robert L. Grossman: “..Lesson 1. Build a commons for a specific community with a specific set of research challenges

Although there are a few data repositories that serve the general scientific community that have proved successful, in general data commons that target a specific user community have proven to be the most successful. The first lesson is to build a data commons for a specific research community that is struggling to answer specific research challenges with data. As a consequence, a data commons is a partnership between the data scientists developing and supporting the commons and the disciplinary scientists with the research challenges.

Lesson 2. Successful commons curate and harmonize the data

Successful commons curate and harmonize the data and produce data products of broad interest to the community. It’s time consuming, expensive, and labor intensive to curate and harmonize data, by much of the value of data commons is centralizing this work so that it can be done once instead of many times by each group that needs the data. These days, it is very easy to think of a data commons as a platform containing data, not spend the time curating or harmonizing it, and then be surprised that the data in the commons is not used more widely used and its impact is not as high as expected.

Lesson 3. It’s ultimately about the data and its value to generate new research discoveries

Despite the importance of a study, few scientists will try to replicate previously published studies. Instead, data is usually accessed if it can lead to a new high impact paper. For this reason, data commons play two different but related roles. First, they preserve data for reproducible science. This is a small fraction of the data access, but plays a critical role in reproducible science. Second, data commons make data available for new high value science.

Lesson 4. Reduce barriers to access to increase usage

A useful rule of thumb is that every barrier to data access cuts down access by a factor of 10. Common barriers that reduce use of a commons include: registration vs no-registration; open access vs controlled access; click through agreements vs signing of data usage agreements and approval by data access committees; license restrictions on the use of the data vs no license restrictions…(More)”.