Supporting the Proliferation of Data-Sharing Scholars in the Research Ecosystem
Librarians champion the value of openness in scholarship and have been powerful advocates for the sharing of research data. College and university administrators have recently joined in the push for data sharing due to funding mandates. However, the researchers who create and control the data usually determine whether and how data is shared, so it is worthwhile to look at what they are incentivized to do. The current scholarly publishing landscape plus the promotion and tenure process create a “prisoner’s dilemma” for researchers as they decide whether or not to share data, consistent with the observation that researchers in general are eager for others to share data but reluctant to do so themselves. If librarians encourage researchers to share data and promote openness without simultaneously addressing the academic incentive structure, those who are intrinsically motivated to share data will be selected against via the promotion and tenure process. This will cause those who are hostile to sharing to be disproportionately recruited into the senior ranks of academia. To mitigate the risk of this unintended consequence, librarians must advocate for a change in incentives alongside the call for greater openness. Highly-cited datasets must be given similar weight to highly-cited articles in promotion and tenure decisions in order for researchers to reap the rewards of their sharing. Librarians can help by facilitating data citation to track the impact of datasets and working to persuade higher administration of the value of rewarding data sharing in tenure and promotion.