If you are a researcher, you have many calls on your time. Between collecting data, doing research into it, reading, teaching, meeting your supervisor (or supervisees), dashing off chapter drafts, and compiling bibliographies, why should you go to the effort of publishing data? What's in it for you?
First of all, publishing your data has the potential to make your life as a researcher easier. The person who is going to make most use and re-use of your data is you yourself, and publishing the data can help.
This may seem paradoxical: after all, you have got the data already! However, it can help in two ways: by making your data easier to use, and by making it permanently available.
A good data publishing platform will probably help you organise, version, and perhaps visualise your data - tasks you will have to do anyway in the course of your research. A platform like CKAN will let you upload a spreadsheet and automatically give you an API, which could also save time doing computations over the data.
Of course, it's important to choose a publishing platform that works for your situation, that makes publishing your data easy - ideally, easier than not publishing it. See the section on 'Where to publish data'.
Right now you have the data at your fingertips on your laptop or on a University workstation. That's great, but you can be sure that in a couple of years you'll want to revisit this data - to help you with a follow-up study, test a new hypothesis, or something else. By then you might have a new laptop, have moved to a new job somewhere else, or perhaps have difficulty getting in touch with your collaborator on a different continent who collected half the data on their laptop. If only you had published it at the time!
Wouldn't it be great if the data you've collected so painstakingly could carry on helping make discoveries after your own project is finished? A quick review of your data might suggest a promising hypothesis for someone else's next project, but one thing's certain: they won't review your data if they can't see it. Of course, they can always e-mail you and ask for it - but they're much more likely to see your data if it's published, and wouldn't you prefer not to spend your time e-mailing large data files around?
As with any research output, if you publish your data it is more likely to be cited by other researchers, and like it or not, citations make you a better prospect for jobs, grants, promotions, Nobel prizes, etc. If they cite your data they may well end up citing your published research, too.
Of course getting more citations will make you the envy of your less enlightened colleagues, but you will also find that people appreciate you having simply opened up your data. By publishing it for all to see you provide a hugely richer source of information than the statistical summaries that make it into your paper. Other researchers will find it useful, and they will respect you for it.
How did you get those figures that are in your paper? What calculations did you do and do your data really say that? (You've no doubt wondered this sometimes when reading a paper of someone else's.) It's a cornerstone of scientific research that others should be able to check your results, and they can check them much more thoroughly if they can see your data.
There are a few notorious cases where researchers have committed outright data fraud, publishing claims that simply aren't backed up by any data they've collected. By publishign data you certainly reduce the chances of anyone suspecting you of such misconduct. But we all make errors, and you also make it easier for them to help you by spotting your mistakes.
According to a recent Royal Society report, "openness ultimately breeds better security"
(What's this about? See: http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal.../2012-06-20-SAOE.pdf)
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