Search, reuse and sharing of research data in materials science and engineering - a qualitative interview study

Bettina Suhr*, Johanna Dungl, Alexander Stocker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Open research data practices are a relatively new, thus still evolving part of scientific work, and their usage varies strongly within different scientific domains. In the literature, the investigation of open research data practices covers the whole range of big empirical studies covering multiple scientific domains to smaller, in depth studies analysing a single field of research. Despite the richness of literature on this topic, there is still a lack of knowledge on the (open) research data awareness and practices in materials science and engineering. While most current studies focus only on some aspects of open research data practices, we aim for a comprehensive understanding of all practices with respect to the considered scientific domain. Hence this study aims at 1) drawing the whole picture of search, reuse and sharing of research data 2) while focusing on materials science and engineering. The chosen approach allows to explore the connections between different aspects of open research data practices, e.g. between data sharing and data search. In depth interviews with 13 researchers in this field were conducted, transcribed verbatim, coded and analysed using content analysis. The main findings characterised research data in materials science and engineering as extremely diverse, often generated for a very specific research focus and needing a precise description of the data and the complete generation process for possible reuse. Results on research data search and reuse showed that the interviewees intended to reuse data but were mostly unfamiliar with (yet interested in) modern methods as dataset search engines, data journals or searching public repositories. Current research data sharing is not open, but bilaterally and usually encouraged by supervisors or employers. Project funding does affect data sharing in two ways: some researchers argue to share their data openly due to their funding agency’s policy, while others face legal restrictions for sharing as their projects are partly funded by industry. The time needed for a precise description of the data and their generation process is named as biggest obstacle for data sharing. From these findings, a precise set of actions is derived suitable to support Open Data, involving training for researchers and introducing rewards for data sharing on the level of universities and funding bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239216
Number of pages26
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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