British Library leads the way for sharing research data in the UK as five major institutions sign up to DataCite

Five major research centres have expanded their commitment to make data more accessible through the British Library’s DataCite service, a global initiative which addresses the problem of how to find, access and re-use the results of research. The Archaeology Data Service, the UK Data Archive, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Science & Technology Facilities Council and the Chinese genomics institute BGI have signed up to the service and are the first institutions to work with the British Library on this initiative.

Data from the participating organisations, which spans information derived from ice cores to gene sequences, cultural heritage to current populations, will be marked with DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) to enable it to be identified and cited, a system which has been widely used to provide persistent links to academic journal articles. This initiative provides a practical solution to one of the most significant challenges facing researchers today – access to data – an issue highlighted by the Royal Society in a report published in June this year, ‘Science as an open enterprise’, which recommended that scientists should communicate the data they collect in fieldwork and research more widely.

The benefits for researchers include:

Confidence that the link to the data (or information about the data) will be persistently and uniquely identified
Increased ease of citing data which will, in turn, increase its discovery and access, enabling others to verify the results and validate their own research
Access to a myriad of new research opportunities which have been out-of-reach until now
Acknowledgement and credit for sharing data and having it cited

“Enabling researchers to cite data, along with journal articles and other references, is becoming increasingly important, and DataCite has the potential to transform the way scientists communicate their research.” said Dr Lee-Ann Coleman, Head of Science, Technology and Medicine at the British Library. “As an institution dedicated to providing information, as well as practical support to researchers, we believe that the British Library DataCite service is addressing some of the barriers to data sharing. We hope that the decision of these five institutions to participate will attract others to become involved, and will mark an important step towards changing community norms about sharing resources.”

Professor Julian Richards, Director of the Archaeology Data Service, one of the newly signed-up data centres, said: “Digital archives are the primary record of many archaeological sites now destroyed, but researchers seeking to verify interpretations have been faced with a mountain of unpublished grey literature fieldwork reports and archives, which it has been impossible to access and reference. The decision to use DataCite is a significant step forward to resolving this problem, and will be transformational in getting archaeological research out to more people.”