Data reuse

"Underlying the arguments for data sharing are assumptions that available data will be used or reused by others. However, surprisingly few studies have addressed how and when researchers reuse data they obtain from other researchers." - Christine Borgman, e.a.(1)

    Main points

Data reuse can be defined as(2) "the use of data collected for one purpose to study a new problem"

Data can also be reused to find out whether a researcher comes to the same conclusions as the data producer. In this case it involves verification purposes. This type of use is discussed in the section Reproducible research.

The authors of the article 'Data Curation for the Long Tail of Science'(3) argue that there are few very large data sets (big sciences) and a 'long tail' of many relatively small data sets from several disciplines. Examples of reuse are easier to find in big sciences because they usually have an infrastructure that holds data management to a high standard. For example: the Hubble telescope.(4) The observations that are conducted with this telescope are expensive and can only be conducted once. This data is reused on a large scale(5):

"The number of science papers written based on Hubble archival data has increased to the point where it has eclipsed the number of papers resulting from new observations."


In the illustration below the red area stands for the publications that were created by reusing existing data.

Examples of reuse of research data can be an incentive for researchers to also make their research data available. 


In the cases below, you will find a number of forms and examples of reuse.





Serendipity is the discovery of knowledge from data that was not collected for that purpose.

  • Researchers were able to draw conclusions(8) from old observations of the areas in the North pole where whales were caught concerning the climate in that period.

Individual reuse

Individual reuse

A user can download data sets via EASY.  

Since late 2010, DANS has worked with a form of peer review. The data of one of the reviewed data sets(9) shows that 3 out of 8 users plan to use the data for their own publication. See also the overview(10) of the data sets at DANS that are subject to peer review.


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  1. Wallis, J.C., e.a. (2013, July 23). If we share data, will anyone use them? Data sharing and reuse in the long tail of science and technology. PLOS ONE. Retrieved from 
  2. Zimmerman, A. (2008). New knowledge from old data: the role of standards in the sharing and reuse of ecological data [pre-publication version]. Retrieved from
  3. Palmer, C.L., e.a. (2007). Data curation in the long tail of science: the case of environmental sciences. [conference paper]. Retrieved from
  4. Hubble Site. Retrieved from
  5. Hubble Site. Hubble racks up 10,000 science papers. Retrieved from
  6. NASA. (2011). Astronomers find elusive planets in decade-old Hubble data. Retrieved from
  7. Mare, W.K. de la. (1997). Abrupt mid-twentieth centry decline in Antarctic sea-ice extent from whaling records. Nature, 389, 57-60. Retrieved from
  8. DANS. Detailed reactions for 'Bestand Bodemgebruik 2006 - BBG'06'. Retrieved from
  9. Grootveld, M.; Egmond, J. van. (2012). Peer-Reviewed Open Research Data: Result of a Pilot. International Journal of Digital Curation, 7(2), 81-91. Retrieved from

  Your additions

Do you have any examples of reused research data? Articles, blog posts, presentations, anecdotes? If so, please share them in the comments.