ESEP 18:27-36 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00182

Open data in the life sciences: the ‘Selfish Scientist Paradox’

D. Damalas1,*, G. Kalyvioti1, E. C. Sabatella2, K. I. Stergiou1,3

1Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Aghios Kosmas, 16777 Athens, Greece
2NISEA Fisheries and Aquaculture Economic Research, Via Irno 11, 84135 Salerno, Italy
3Laboratory of Ichthyology, Department of Zoology, School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, UP Box 134, 541 24 Thessaloniki, Greece
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Full and open access is promoted as the international norm for the exchange of scientific data by numerous scientific and political bodies. In the contemporary digital era, since scientists are both consumers and producers of data, they inevitably play a crucial role in defining the level of data accessibility. Yet, it is individual researchers usually who resist the release of their data. Through a global online questionnaire survey, the perception of 858 life scientists with respect to open data was investigated. Differences in scientists’ perceptions were tested per major country, rank position and academic performance in order to identify partial and global preferences. The ‘Selfish Scientist Paradox’ was identified: although the majority of respondents were in favour of open access to life sciences data, and most acknowledged that data gathered by others is vital to their work, the same group of people were quite reluctant to share their own data; only a third of them were willing to make their data available unconditionally. Scientists with >10 yr professional experience were twice as likely to oppose open access, while almost half of junior researchers would rather not share their data prior to publishing. Senior scientists argued that although project funding in general was a significant incentive towards making their data available, at the same time certain confidentiality agreements in some projects become a main barrier to data sharing. Country of professional location largely affected most responses, revealing that southern Europeans had a ‘conservative’ attitude towards open access, being more unwilling to share their data. Analyses based on academic performance (publications and citations) indicated that established individuals were more dependent on data collected by others and more opposed to open access.


KEY WORDS: Open data · Life sciences · Questionnaire


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Cite this article as: Damalas D, Kalyvioti G, Sabatella EC, Stergiou KI (2018) Open data in the life sciences: the ‘Selfish Scientist Paradox’. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 18:27-36. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00182

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