Angela Beringer, a sociologist, leads a long-term multi-national
project to study changes in old-age income security programs both in
the US and in some selected European countries. The project collects
historical and archival data as well as current data. Surveys of
current policy-makers occur from time to time. The project is expected
to last approximately ten years and many researchers are involved.
After four years of data collection, Angela and two colleagues publish
a paper from the study. In addition, a grad student involved with the
study writes a dissertation based on the data collected during the
first two years of the project. The researchers plan to produce papers
and reports as the project continues but they are aiming for a
significant monograph when the project is finished.
After the first paper and dissertation are published, a sociologist,
Mike Gallo, asks for a copy of the data because he wants to do further
analysis. He suspects that the Beringer team has not used the best
statistical techniques and that there is still enough critical
information missing from the archival data that the interpretations
would be different depending on the assumptions made about the missing
Angela does not want to release the data because the study is in
progress, and because she now has some of the data that were missing
when the first paper were published. She and her colleagues plan to
present a new analysis at an upcoming international conference. Also,
she wants to protect the integrity of the project and fears that
external analyses might make it more difficult to continue to collect
data during the remaining years of the project.
1. Should Angela release the data that the first
paper and the dissertation were based on to Mike?
2. While data sharing is encouraged in the code, does
that mean that all data must be shared?
3. The code states that data should be shared at the
completion of the project or after significant publications. Does
publishing a paper or a dissertation qualify as a significant
4. What is the appropriate time to share data
collected during an ongoing project?
5. Does Angela have a right to protect the project by
ensuring the publications meet the standards she has set for data
analysis from it?
Reflect on the above questions and form your
own answers before clicking the Discussion
key to review the commentary provided with this case.
The issue of data sharing becomes much more complex with long term
projects. The norm of data sharing is important in science because it
allows independent analysis of data which provides a necessary
safeguard against error and excessive researcher bias. It also allows
the data collected to have more value because they can be analyzed more
fully. Most major research projects now require a form of data sharing.
With Angela's project, the issues are not clear but she should be
willing to share the data that were used as the basis for the
publications. If that is not possible for technical or practical
reasons, she might need to consider how she might be able to provide
data after subsequent publications.