Research data can be defined as ‘recorded factual material commonly retained by and accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings’. Although the majority of such data is created in digital format, all research data is included in the definition, irrespective of the format in which it is created.
Systematic management and sharing of research data has many benefits for the research community and the public, including:
- increasing the visibility of research and generating citations, leading to growth of scientific reputation of individual researchers, their research teams and their institutions
- reinforcing open scientific inquiry
- protecting against the use of faulty data by allowing published results to be independently verified, refuted or refined, thus improving the overall quality of research, encouraging diversity of analysis and opinion, and helping to resolve scientific disputes
- stimulating new approaches to data collection and methods of analysis
- increasing awareness of research in related areas, leading to more opportunities for collaboration
- allowing the reuse of data for research not foreseen by the initial investigators, thus increasing the efficiency of public funding by avoiding unnecessary duplication of data collection
- permitting the creation of more highly powered data analysis by combining data from multiple sources
- facilitating the education of new researchers and the wider public.