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

Prof. Brent I.A McInnes1, Prof. Joel  Cutcher-Gershenfeld2

1John de Laeter Centre, Curtin University, Australia, b.mcinnes@curtin.edu.au

2Brandeis University, Boston, 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 is perceived to be a large gap between the importance of finding, accessing and using data, and the difficulty of actually doing so. Interdisciplinary researchers value finding, accessing, and using data within and across fields more than those who identify as being geoscientists, and see accessing data across disciplines as quite difficult.
  2. Women value finding, accessing, and using data within and across fields more than men. They also report data access as being of more of a priority. The most senior cohort sees using data from other fields as less important than mid-career and early career individuals.
  3. Both geoscience and interdisciplinary scientists perceive a lack of support from employers or colleagues for bridging across fields and disciplines. They also report a lack of support for open sharing and reuse of data.  In contrast, those whose primary identity is eResearch do experience such support from employers and colleagues. Interestingly, the lowest perceived support is among those with the most employment 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 who identified as eResearch professionals. All agreed on the importance of improving mechanisms for crediting the usage of data, 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 as sharing data on physical samples.
  6. Geoscientists and interdisciplinary scholars do not see leaders clarifying common directions and aligning efforts in sharing data, models, and software. In contrast, eResearch professionals report stronger leadership in their field and do see alignment of efforts in their work environment.
  7. There are perceived 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 and contributing to eResearch 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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