Scientists call for more rules and regulations about data

There are a lot of academics and researchers collecting data on a variety of topics. Some scientists argue that we need more regulations about data so that researchers can work with and access data collected by others:

In 10 new articles, also published in Science, researchers in fields as diverse as paleontology and neuroscience say the lack of data libraries, insufficient support from federal research agencies, and the lack of academic credit for sharing data sets have created a situation in which money is wasted and information that could reveal better cancer treatments or the causes of climate change goes by the wayside…

A big problem is the many forms of data and the difficulty of comparing them. In neuroscience, for instance, researchers collect data on scales of time that range from nanoseconds, if they are looking at rates of neuron firing, to years, if they are looking at developmental changes. There are also difference in the kind of data that come from optical microscopes and those that come from electron microscopes, and data on a cellular scale and data from a whole organism…

He added that he was limited by how data are published. “When I see a figure in a paper, it’s just the tip of the iceberg to me. I want to see it in a different form in order to do a different kind of analysis.” But the data are not available in a public, searchable format.

Shared data libraries sound like they could be useful. Based on experience, however, even if data is made available, it still takes a good amount of time to download data, read the documentation, and reshape the data in a way that one can start to replicate findings from journal articles.

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