A survey of attitudes, perceptions and experiences around data sharing and the concept of open data in the Australian Earth Science community

Prof. Brent Mcinnes1, Prof. Joel  Cutcher-Gershenfeld2

1Curtin University, Perth, Australia, b.mcinnes@curtin.edu.au

2Brandeis University, Waltham, USA, joelcg@brandeis.edu


This work reports on the findings of a 2017 national survey of attitudes, perceptions and experiences around data sharing in the Australian Earth Sciences community. The survey, which is the first of its kind in Australia, provides a benchmark metric for the adoption and utilisation of open data concepts by Australian Earth Scientists, and to determine where Australia sits in the “open data” spectrum relative to counterparts in the United States and Europe.

A total of 249 Earth Science professionals from academic (69%), government (22%) and industrial/other organisations (9%) participated in the survey.  The responses were evaluated on the basis of self-identification of gender, disciplinary focus (geoscience, eResearch and interdisciplinary) and age cohort.  Notable findings include:

  1. For all respondents, there are large gaps between the importance of finding, accessing, and using data within across fields/disciplines and the ease of doing so. The gaps are smaller across fields/disciplines, but are present.  Interdisciplinary researchers value finding, accessing, and using data within and across fields more than others, while also having a larger gap in perceived difficulty of accessing this data.
  2. Women value finding, accessing, and using data within and across fields more than men, while also having a larger gap on difficulty. The most senior cohort sees using data from other fields as being of less importance than others.
  3. For geoscience and interdisciplinary respondents there is not strong perceived support from employers or colleagues for bridging across fields and disciplines, or open sharing and reuse of data. In contrast, those whose primary identity is eResearch do experience such support. Interestingly, the lowest perceived support is among those with the most experience.
  4. The current state of geoscience eResearch infrastructure is not seen as sufficient to ensure effective data preservation. Confidence around eResearch concepts is low, except for respondents that identified as eResearch professionals. All agreed on the importance of improving mechanisms for credit and that tenure/promotion policies are a substantial barrier to creating an open data environment.
  5. Sharing data on physical samples is seen as important by all, and very important by eResearch professionals, however it is perceived as being hard to do. The actual sharing of physical samples is not seen as hard to do however.
  6. Geoscientists and interdisciplinary scholars do not see leaders clarifying common directions and aligning efforts in sharing data, models, and software; eResearch professions do see that leadership and do see this as aligned with their work.
  7. There are challenges around cooperation and open sharing of data within the Geosciences, within eResearch, and between the two. The challenges are even greater when it comes to end-user knowledge and training around accessing open data ecosystems.



Brent is the Director of the John de Laeter Centre (JdLC), a Curtin-based research infrastructure hub operating $33M of research grade analytical facilities which employs 25 staff that supports research, education and training in the minerals, petroleum and environmental sectors.

Research ID: researcherid.com/rid/B-7408-2013

ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-2776-0574

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