Controversial Editorial from NEJM

Should we share our data? If we do, should there be rules about how others use it or how the original source is credited?

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An editorial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently which is causing quite a stir.

In the article, the authors coined the term "research parasite" which many researchers have taken to imply that if you reuse someone else's published data, then you are a "research parasite".

Oh, dear.

While this isn't exactly what the authors said I'm sure you can understand the outrage in the research community who are using the hashtag #IAmAResearchParasite in defiance.

Researchers are angry because the ability to scrutinise scientific data and to try to falsify hypotheses are a corner stone of the scientific process. Many have hailed the new data sharing revolution as a great step forward in that respect. Sharing data is also a very cost effective way to get more scientific findings out of the same set of experiments, if it is done properly. However, if it is not done properly, at best, it is just adding to the noise in the academic literature. At worst, it can be misleading and directly detrimental to scientific discovery.

I think this is the critical point that the editorial tried to make. I don't think anyone can argue that data sharing is a good thing but there should be some standard practices and rules to govern it. There are legitimate concerns from researchers who have spent a lot of energy and money to obtain a large dataset who fear that they will be usurped and given no credit for the work they have done.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts in the community, especially as Nature Biofilms and Microbiomes is shaping up to be a very open and modern scientific communication platform.

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Ben Libberton

Science Communicator, Freelance

I'm a freelance science communicator, formerly a Postdoc in the biofilm field. I'm interested in how bacteria cause disease and look to technology to produce novel tools to study and ultimately prevent infection.