I had the pleasure of going up to visit the Limnological Research Center (LRC) at the University of Minnesota this past week. It’s a pretty cool setup, and obviously something that we should all value very highly, both as a resource to help prepare and sample sediment cores, and as a repository for data. The LRC has more than 4000 individual cores, totaling over 13km of lacustrine and marine sediment. A key point here is that much of this sediment is still available to sample, but, this is still data in its rawest, unprocessed form.
I’ve written before about open science and reproducibility. These two things obviously go hand in hand, but we as scientists navigate a tricky world. The NSF expects that data will be shared “within a reasonable time“, which is fairly open ended. In practice this exhortation doesn’t always work. We’ve all heard about researchers who won’t share data (often for good reason), but equally there are stories of researchers who may have used data to which they have no right. In some cases this is resolved, but in others the results are not so clear cut. The fair use of data overlaps with authorship, good citizenship, fairness and a number of other issues in academia, and one person’s definition of what is fair is unlikely to be another’s.