As emphasized earlier, there are major differences between research fields in the handling of data, including technological infrastructure, publication practices, and data-sharing expectations. In some fields, aspects of their data culture act as barriers to access and sharing of data. Because of the growing importance of research data and the rate at which practices are changing in research, it is important for various fields and disciplines to examine their standards and practices regarding data and to make these explicit.
The development of plans for data management and sharing is greatly facilitated when a field of research has standards and institutions in place designed to promote the accessibility of data.
Recommendation 6: In research fields that currently lack standards for the sharing of 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.
The development of standards and institutions can occur in different ways depending partly on the field of research in which it occurs. The process can be led by journal editors, professional societies, ad hoc bodies of researchers established to solve particular problems, or permanent institutions charged with overseeing data management issues. National Academies committees and advisory committees to federal agencies can play constructive roles. In large, complex fields, multiple initiatives may be undertaken to address various aspects of standard setting. Input and participation from international stakeholders will often be needed.
The life sciences provide useful examples of the standards-setting process. As described in Box 3-4, a National Academies committee developed broad standards for the sharing of research data in the life sciences. Similarly, as described in Box 3-5, a journal-led effort incorporating community input developed the Paris Guidelines for the management of protein data. Both examples demonstrate how standards can be put in place to deal with existing or new issues affecting the management of research data.
The Principles for the Release of Scientific Research Results, released in 2008 and discussed in the earlier section on “Federal and Journal Policies Affecting the Availability of Data,” establish data-sharing standards for research conducted by employees of federal civilian agencies.69 One section of the principles states:
John H. Marburger, III. 2008. Principles for the Release of Scientific Research Results. Memorandum. May 28. Available at www.arl.org/bm~doc/ostp-scientific-research-28may08.pdf.