Data sharing FAQ

FAQ stencil, photo by Flickr user a_kep

People keep saying that I have to share my data. Is this true?

This will depend to some degree on your funding agency or directorate, as well as on your data. Review the guidelines for your granting agency carefully. Guidelines (pdf) for the NSF Engineering directorate specifically state that "analyzed data and the metadata that define how these data were generated" are included, but that raw data qualify as "preliminary analyses" and are therefore not included. If you collect restricted data, you may be exempt from sharing those data.

We would be happy to help you sort out exactly how your funding agency's policies apply to your research project. If no specifics are given, then you may want to consider sharing data that support published articles or have the potential to be reused by others, including software code.

Can you suggest an easy way for me to share my data to meet funding agency requirements?

Yes, we can! The Stanford Digital Repository is a lightweight approach to meeting funding agency requirements for data sharing and preservation. Deposit your data in the SDR and you will receive a persistent URL (PURL) at which anyone (or only members of the Stanford community -- your choice) can access your data. See more information in our repositories and data preservation FAQ.

I already publish my data in journal articles. Isn’t that good enough?

It might be. In some cases, the data published in articles is fairly complete. In other cases, a lot of data exists in tables or databases or other formats that are referred to in articles but do not actually get published. If these data are not provided as part of online data supplements associated with the articles, then you probably will need to make it available somehow, some way.

I'm not sure that I can share my data because it contains patient health information or other types of confidential or restricted data, or because of agreements I have with my funder (like license agreements). Is that a problem?

Funding agencies understand that in some sensitive data cannot be shared. You should indicate in your data management plan why you couldn’t share some or all of your data.