other trends, it is important for fields of research to examine their standards and practices regarding data and to make these explicit.
Data accessibility standards generally depend on the norms of scholarly communication within a field. In many fields these norms are now in a state of flux. In some fields, researchers may be expected to disseminate data and conclusions more rapidly than is possible through peer-reviewed publications. Digital technologies are providing new ways to disseminate research results—for example, by making it possible to post draft papers on archival sites or by employing software packages, databases, blogs, or other communications on personal or institutional Web sites.
Data sharing is greatly facilitated when a field of research has standards and institutions in place that are designed to promote the accessibility of data.
Recommendation 6: In research fields that currently lack standards for sharing research data, such standards should be developed through a process that involves researchers, research institutions, research sponsors, professional societies, journals, representatives of other research fields, and representatives of public interest organizations, as appropriate for each particular field.
If researchers are to make data accessible, they need to work in an environment that promotes data sharing and openness.
Recommendation 7: Research institutions, research sponsors, professional societies, and journals should promote the sharing of research data through such means as publication policies, public recognition of outstanding data-sharing efforts, and funding.
Recommendation 8: Research institutions should establish clear policies regarding the management of and access to research data and ensure that these policies are communicated to researchers. Institutional policies should cover the mutual responsibilities of researchers and the institution in cases in which access to data is requested or demanded by outside organizations or individuals.
Research data can be valuable for many years after they are generated. Data that led to initial insights can sometimes be used to generate new findings in the same or entirely different research fields. Existing data can be reanalyzed or combined with new data to verify published results or arrive at new conclusions. In some research areas, accessible databases have become essential parts of the research infrastructure, comparable to laboratories, research facilities, and computing devices and networks.
Maintaining high-quality and reliable databases can be costly, especially