Ready access to data is a key concern in both basic research and problem-solving in the biological sciences, as the scale and scope of the questions that researchers ask expand, and as global problems demand data collected from around the world. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Ecological Society of America facilitated a series of workshops on data sharing. These workshops were intended to help the ecology, evolution, and organismal biology communities find common ground on how to make data more readily discoverable and accessible in their own disciplines.
This collaborative examination of data sharing began in September, 2004, when ESA hosted an NSF-sponsored three-day workshop of participants invited from the leadership of 12 major professional societies (including ESA ) that publish ecology, evolution, and organismal biology journals.
The goals of the “society summit meeting” were to (1) develop a common policy statement on data sharing and archiving and (2) identify technological, intellectual property, economics, and training issues for discussion in potential future workshops. The 35 participants arrived at a shared vision, common goals, and an agreement on specific near term strategies. [ESA bulletin article]
Based on discussions and conclusions reached at the Society Summit, four follow-on workshops were organized to further answer questions about data registries, data centers, cultural obstacles to data sharing, and incentives for data sharing. These workshops, with attendees representing a broad cross-section of the ecology, organismal biology, and evolutionary biology communities, continued the effort begun at the Society Summit and addressed the associated technological and institutional arrangements for ensuring the accessibility and reliability of data archives.
Data Registries Workshop, July 2006
In July 2006, ESA hosted the first of three follow-on workshops, on data registries, in Washington, DC. Many of the same societies represented at the Society Summit attended the Data Registries Workshop, helping to maintain continuity of the discussions and fostering collaborative thinking.
Goals of the Data Registries Workshop included:
(1) Identify a set of common needs for, and desirable features of, data registries for ecology, evolutionary biology, and organismal biology, based on an understanding of existing resources;
(2) develop recommendations, as appropriate, for shared or independent data registries for the disciplines and societies represented; and
(3) develop preliminary plans for implementing those recommendations.
Click here to read the Registries Workshop Report.
Data Centers Workshop
The second workshop, "Data Centers for Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology," was held December 8-9, 2006, in Santa Barbara, CA . Thirty-two participants representing fourteen professional societies and eleven other organizations assembled to work toward three goals:
- Identify gaps between existing data centers and needs, including specific issues such as quality assurance procedures needed for contributions to centers, types of data that should be archived, etc.
- Identify roles of professional societies, funders of research, and users of research in developing - or encouraging the development of - data centers, along with where data centers should be housed and who should operate and maintain them.
- Assess likely cost to establish and maintain data centers required to meet community needs, including identification of potential funding mechanisms and models for data centers.
Click here to read the Data Centers Workshop Report.
Obstacles to Data Sharing Workshop
The third workshop, “Obstacles to Data Sharing in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology,” was held May 30-31, 2007, in Durham, NC. Thirty-nine participants representing nine professional societies and 22 other organizations assembled to work toward two goals:
- Clearly delineate what barriers exist to data sharing, for example, intellectual property concerns, proprietary and confidential business information, handling of sensitive data such as locations of endangered species, lack of training in data sharing software, national or economic security concerns, etc.
- Develop recommendations to reduce or eliminate those barriers, for example, publication policies that encourage or require data sharing, means of providing at least limited access to business or sensitive data, and development of easily accessible training programs.
Click here to read the Obstacles Workshop
Incentives for Data Sharing Workshop
A fourth workshop, “Developing Incentives for Data Sharing in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology”, was held February 19-20, 2009, in Washington, DC. 24 participants representing researchers, publishers, and funders assembled to work toward two goals:
- Identify incentives and recommend steps to overcome barriers to productive sharing of scientific information from the perspective of funders, researchers, and publishers.
- Develop ideas for products that will help implement recommendations from the Data Sharing Workshop series.
Click here to read the Incentives Workshop Report.
News and Announcements
5th International Conference on Ecological Informatics, December 4 - 6, 2006, Santa Barbara, CA. Information available here.
Acknowledgement and Disclaimer
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. 0424702 and 0533052.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.