Why we don't share

While the arguments for sharing data are well cataloged – it holds the hope of increasing transparency, identifying opportunities for collaboration, improving operational efficiency, and engaging citizens – the reasons to hold it back remain somewhat mysterious to those who are convinced of the value of open data.

A recent article published by scholars from Berlin, Germany, shed some light on this issue. In their analysis of data sharing practices, they reveal six reasons why data is not shared:

  1. The data donor, the person supplying data, has invested resources in the compilation of data and/or anticipates returns for sharing data.

  2. The research organization, such as an academic institution, has policies in place regarding the distribution of materials for free.

  3. The research community lacks a formatting standard and/or sharing culture for knowledge transfer.

  4. Legal and ethical codes, such as copyright and confidentiality, prevent data sharing.

  5. An adverse use case, such as data that threatens security, limits free and public distribution.

  6. The technical infrastructure for data sharing does not allow it.

Understanding the rationale for not sharing information may help us to craft better arguments, persuade, and change the opinions of those who are reticent to share information, including data. It may also help us craft better policies that overcome institutional barriers and rules that limit the distribution of information.

Image credit: Duncan Harris