Improving Science through Data Management and Sharing

Kathryn A. Kane, Washington State University Vancouver

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Introduction:Professor Alexandra Bennett is in charge of a typical lab at a large university that studies the surface characteristics of semiconductors. The outcomes of research inform industry developers to build better electronic devices. Within this lab group, doctoral students are engaged in their own individual projects and are responsible for recording and archiving their results. However, there is no standardized system to digitally store and access research data. This is mostly due to the lack of familiarity with data storage among the researchers combined with different working styles. It makes it difficult for doctoral students to share related data with each other, much less with researchers outside of their institution, since recordkeeping is so idiosyncratic. Professor Bennett remarks, “It scares me how much data was lost (sic) because it wasn’t well organized.” (Akmon, Daniels, Hedstrom, & Zimmerman, 2011, p. 337).

This is just one small example of how valuable data can be lost to both current and future researchers when there is no data management plan in place. Scientific discovery and innovation move society into the future, and it is the responsibility of researchers to use their work to advance that purpose. By effectively managing and sharing their data with the public, researchers can facilitate collaboration with their peers, thus conserving time and resources. This also leads to increased transparency and improved scientific reputations. There are some challenges facing this proposal, but with a concerted effort data management and sharing can become an integral part of the scientific culture.

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