Policies put into place by major funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and to a lesser extent by scientific journals, aim to increase the sharing of scientific resources among life science investigators.

There have been a lot of changes in data-sharing policies over the past 10 to 12 years, and new tools for data-sharing have become available.

says lead author Genevieve Pham-Kanter , PhD, assistant professor of Health Management and Policy at Drexel University School of Public Health.

He also adds:

At the same time, there have been moves by many universities and academic health centers to preserve their intellectual property and limit sharing. Since there had been very little systemic evaluation of how these policies have affected scientists and their sharing behavior, we wanted to get a sense of which policies were working and which were not.

In order to measure the influence of those policies, Pham-Kanter and her co-authors – Eric G. Campbell, PhD, Mongan Institute for Health Policy at MGH, and Darren Zinner, PhD, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University – launched a survey. Almost 1,000 out of 3,000 investigators completed and returned this survey. 65 percent of them believed that NIH policies introduced in the past few years had a positive impact on the sharing of scientific data.

This survey has also identified some unexpected problems, including the number of researchers who share materials or resources without completing legal agreements required by their institutions.

Our paper points out the important influence that third parties like the NIH, other funding agencies and scientific journals have had on data sharing practices.

says Pham-Kanter, who also is a research fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

You can read more about the results of this interesting survey here or access the whole article on Data Sharing Policy in the life Sciences here.