Skip to main content

Data withholding battles the openness in data sharing in the academic sector

Daphne van Hesteren

Data sharing is receiving an increasing amount of attention. In line with transparency and benefits for the many, a growing number of institutions and governments are sharing their data with the public. However, data withholding remains an existing problem in the scientific community. Data withholding is when someone request additional information and the publishing author refuses to provide it (for reasons other than privacy concerns). Openness in data sharing in academic research is regarded as a major ideal in the conduct of science1. When authors withhold data and information, they run the risk of losing the trust of the science community.


A study published in 2015 sent data requests to 200 authors of articles in economic journals and working papers, that specifically mentioned that data would be shared upon request. Only 68% authors responded to the request and only 44% actually provided the data on request2. Other studies came to similar conclusions3, indicating a structural problem. There are several reasons why scientist withhold data. One is that it would take too much effort to produce the requested materials, another is that they try to protect their own ability or the ability of a junior faculty member to publish an article4.


Refusing to openly share information, data and materials regarding published research could be considered a breach of ideal. An article published by LSE in 2015 goes as far as considering it a scientific misconduct.


On the one hand, I can imagine scientist being hesitant to share their long and hard work with anyone. However, in order to stimulate progress in scientific community, sharing research and data is beneficial. How do you feel about data withholding, and wow can we overcome this problem?

Data withholding battles the openness in data sharing in the academic sector
Image credit:
(C) 2018, Pete Linforth