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Increase your citation count, send me your data!

I regularly email people asking for a copy of the data used in a paper they wrote. In around 32% of cases I don’t get any reply, around 12% promise to send the data when they are less busy (a few say they are just too busy) and every now and again people ask why I want the data.

After 6-12 months, I email again saying that I am still interested in their data; a few have replied with apologies and the data.

I need a new strategy to motivate people to spend some time tracking down their data and sending it to me; there are now over 200 data-sets possibly lost forever!

I think those motivated by the greater good will have already responded. It is time to appeal to baser instincts, e.g., self-interest. The currency of academic life is paper citations, which translate into status in the community, which translate into greater likelihood of grant proposals being accepted (i.e., money to do what they want to do).

Sending data gets researchers one citation in my book (I am ruthless about not citing a paper if I don’t get any data).

My current argument is that once their data is publicly available (and advertised in my book) lots of other researchers will use it and more citation to their work will follow; they also get an exclusive, I only use one data-set for each topic (actually data is hard to get hold of, so the exclusivity offer is spin).

To back up my advertising claims I point out that influential people are writing about my book and it’s all over social media. If you want me to add you to the list of influential people, send me a link to what you have written (I have no shame).

If you write about my book, please talk about the data and that researchers who make their data public are the only ones who deserve funding and may citations rain down on them.

That is the carrot approach, how can I apply some stick to motivate people?

I could point out that if they don’t send me their data their work is doomed to obscurity, because I will use somebody else’s (skipping over the minor detail of data being hard to find). Research has found that people are less willing to share their data if the strength of the evidence is weak; calling out somebody like that is do-or-die.

If you write about my book, please talk about the data and point out that researchers who don’t make their data public have something to hide and should not be funded.

Since the start of 2017, researchers in the UK receiving government research grants are required to archive their data and make it available. This is good for future researchers, but not a lot of use for me now.

What do readers think? Ideas and suggestions welcome.

  1. rak
    June 30th, 2017 at 19:36 | #1

    As someone who does technical work, the stream of silly recruiter offers and obviously promotional social media requests I get makes it difficult to not automatically assume any unsolicited request is some kind of scam. How do you differentiate your request from the average request from someone to do unpaid work on their project for them?

  2. June 30th, 2017 at 20:14 | #2

    @rak

    The email request follows a standard form (see below), which makes it very obvious I am for real.

    Hello,

    I have been reading your interesting paper:
    “blah blah blah”

    I am currently writing a book on empirical software engineering with R and am interested in using your data in an example. Would it be possible to obtain a copy of your data in anonymized form?

    I plan to make all data+code I use available to readers (of course your work will be cited as the source).

    A draft pdf of the book is now out on public release:
    http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2017/03/26/economics-chapter-added-to-empirical-software-engineering-using-r/

    My last book attempted to use results from cognitive psychology to understand developer characteristics:
    http://www.knosof.co.uk/cbook

    Code+data that I have already made available:
    http://www.knosof.co.uk/ESEUR/figures/index.html
    https://github.com/Derek-Jones/ESEUR-code-data
    Slides for a workshop I have been running, based on the book:
    https://github.com/Derek-Jones/ESEUR-workshop

    Blog article giving overview of book:
    http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2012/06/22/background-to-my-book-project-empirical-software-engineering-with-r/

    You can read about my own experimental work + and data here:
    http://www.knosof.co.uk/dev-experiment.html

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