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Data is the foundation on which we scientists base our claims and inferences about the world

“Data is the foundation on which we scientists base our claims and inferences about the world”
Name: Gustav Nilsonne
Position: Researcher
Institution: Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University
Country: Sweden
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ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5273-0150

An interview with Gustav Nilsonne on 2 June 2017

Why you are keen to share data?

Data are the foundation on which we scientists base our claims and inferences about the world. In many areas, every dataset counts, and the loss of data will irretrievably increase the risk of bias in our inferences. This is particularly true for data that support evidence-based practice in medicine and elsewhere.

How you are involved with sharing data and how do you get others to do the same?

I work to raise awareness about Open Data and to disseminate knowledge and skills, by giving courses and workshops, and by participating in scholarly debate in different fora. I also work to share my own data as far as possible. In trying to persuade others to do the same, I always emphasise the benefits of Open Data to researchers as well as to other stakeholders, such as research participants and the general public.

Who or what (project / service) inspires you and makes you optimistic about the future of Open Science?

The last few years have seen a great blossoming of new tools and infrastructures supporting Open Science. Research funders, scientific institutions, and journals are gradually adopting policies supporting open practices. Meta-science is rising as a discipline and is beginning to provide answers to questions about which policies are effective, and so on. What really makes me optimistic is when I meet students and early-career researchers who are doing what they can to practice science openly from the outset.

What still needs to be done to get more to share, and what makes you optimistic about the future of Open Science?

One important challenge is to align academic incentives with open practices. I believe that open data, open code, open materials, and study preregistration are associated with higher scientific quality, whereas the prestige of a scientific journal is only weakly related to the quality of research published there. Academic culture only changes slowly, but I am optimistic that, over time, we are moving towards openness and transparency.

What would happen if public research data remained closed, and what do you think a world with far more Open Data would look like?

To estimate different effects in the real world, it is often best to look at all data. Inaccessible data represent a loss of value and risk causing bias. This bias risk increases with the fraction of data that cannot be accessed. Thus, missing and closed data project uncertainty on the data that are accessible. In a world with completely closed data, accumulation of more data will only lead to more bias in estimates and, hence, less knowledge.

“In a world with far more Open Data, we will have accelerated knowledge development, with real-world benefits reflected in better decisions in medicine and in other fields.”

In a world with far more Open Data, we will have accelerated knowledge development, with real-world benefits reflected in better decisions in medicine and in other fields. Researchers will routinely incorporate meta-analytic practices, and greater value will be extracted from existing data through secondary analyses.

Copyright: Gustav Nilsonne. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence.

Tags: Open Data, Open Science, accessibility, advocacy, benefits, career development, code, cultural change, dissemination, education, evidence, funders, incentives, infrastructure, metrics, policy, policy development, process, publishing, quality, research, research assessment, research evaluation, sharing, skills, society, tools, transparency, value

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