Reasons included a lack of informed consent or ethics approval to share; misplaced data; and that others had moved on from the project.
Most biomedical and health researchers who declare their willingness to share the data behind journal articles do not respond to access requests or hand over the data when asked, a study reports1.
In recent years, an increasing number of research funding bodies, publications, learned societies and institutions have urged researchers to share their data. In 2021, Gary Allen and Nik Zeps wrote about the fact that there is a research ethics argument for sharing data. So it is disheartening to hear that some researchers are using research ethics considerations and principles as the justification for them not sharing a project’s data. Institutional policies and guidelines should stress that the sharing of data is an ethical ‘good’ and should urge researchers to include extended consent tick boxes in their consent strategies.
The team identified 381 articles with links to data stored in online repositories and another 1,792 papers for which the authors indicated in statements that their data sets would be available on reasonable request. The remaining studies stated that their data were in the published manuscript and its supplements, or generated no data, so sharing did not apply.
But of the 1,792 manuscripts for which the authors stated they were willing to share their data, more than 90% of corresponding authors either declined or did not respond to requests for raw data (see ‘Data-sharing behaviour’). Only 14%, or 254, of the contacted authors responded to e-mail requests for data, and a mere 6.7%, or 120 authors, actually handed over the data in a usable format. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology on 29 May.