When it comes to sharing information, there seems to be quite a difference of opinion—across areas both trivial and serious—as to how much is enough. Some people broadcast their lives on Facebook; others poke fun at the oversharers in their feeds. The Edward Snowdens of the world fight for greater government transparency, even as some argue for less of it. Last year, some experts called for heightened secrecy in the technology sector, arguing that public expectation stifles creativity.
A study published in October in BioScience revealed that sharing is a tricky topic in science as well. Michigan State University ecology professor Patricia Soranno and colleagues found that while many environmental-science researchers believe data sharing is beneficial—for the replication of analyses, the ability to confirm data integrity, and the overall advancement of science—few actually take the steps to make their own materials publicly available after their research is published. Save for a few sentences in the “Methods and Analysis” sections, the data used to produce published manuscripts is often kept private—sometimes purposefully. When a scientist does make a request to obtain another researcher’s materials, their inquiries might be unanswered or denied, forcing them to delay or put on hold their own projects. And ecology isn’t the only branch of science grappling with too much secrecy: The same thing is happening in genetics, biology, chemistry, and engineering, too.