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Over the summer, I wrote about the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science and its importance to our research community. A key focus of the NIH plan is to make available the vast amounts of data produced by researchers. Here at UNC-Chapel Hill, the University Libraries offer a tutorial for data management that points to various repositories and their requirements for metadata standards and formats in order to deposit data.

The tool has been immensely helpful for Carolina researchers given that the accepted norm — and often requirement of journals and funders — is to share data. Raw datasets underlie published figures and tables, and without this information, it is difficult to replicate or fully understand the conclusions drawn by authors. There has been no specific repository for investigators to use, though. The libraries’ data management resources were established to help our investigators navigate this landscape.

The NIH data science plan also recognized this problem. In July, the agency announced a new partnership with Figshare to create a one-year pilot program for making datasets more accessible to the public that result from NIH-funded research. The NIH Figshare determines the need for data repositories and how these platforms will increase rigor and reproducibility in research. Providing a one-stop repository option, the NIH Figshare will allow researchers to follow the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) principles regarding data and metadata.

The data will be reviewed to ensure that no personally identifiable information is included. The pilot program will adhere to principles such as the ability to self-publish any data type that will be assigned a digital object identifier. The data will be associated with a license and linked to grant information. Investigators can embargo data until publication, but will have open access once published. The data will be indexed across search engines and usage metrics tracked openly. To learn more about the program, visit the NIH Figshare FAQs page.

We all agree that developing data management plans are an important priority. The new NIH Figshare pilot is a major step toward implementing best practices for data repositories.

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