A recent study found that less than half of researchers contacted shared their data, prompting Nicole Janz at the London School of Economics' Impact Blog to wonder how such situations should be handled.
In that study, researchers from the University of Warsaw and Columbia Business School sent 200 emails to authors of recent economics papers that said that supplementary or other additional information was available upon request. As they reported in Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance in 2012, some 64 percent of researchers responded to the emails, though only 44 percent forwarded on the requested information.
Janz now wonders whether declining to share data when it is supposed to be available should be considered research misconduct. Usually, she notes, such a label is reserved for plagiarism and data fabrication or manipulation. She argues, though, that there are instances in which keeping data secret could amount to misconduct, such as when it's done to cover up other misconduct or a breach of professional ethics.
"If we can punish data secrecy — and breaking promises — by labeling it misconduct, this could send a strong signal to the community," she says.