Supply and demand

"The main reason we do not routinely share data is that, until recently, we could not." - Maryann E. Martone(1)

    Main points

As a data supporter, you will assist researchers/research groups in storing, managing, archiving and sharing data. Depending on the stage of the research, several questions will pop up, such as:

  • I have some old tapes in a drawer and would like to digitise and archive them. Can you help me?
  • We want to make it easier to share our research data with other research groups. Are there solutions for that?
  • Can you help me write a data management plan?
  • Can you get me access to externally gathered data sets?

There are quite a few surveys that show(2) what researchers actually want to do with their data and what kind of data support they appreciate. For example, researchers are fine with sharing their data, but first they want to exploit their data themselves. They are worried about intellectual property/privacy, and are not yet properly compensated for it. If you click here, you’ll see a table with conditions that researchers state for sharing their data. The table is the result of a study among researchers and is taken from the article 'If we share data, will anyone use them'.(3) The situation in your field can be slightly different, but this will offer an impression of what goes on in the community.

As a data supporter you will find out what the client needs and you know how to settle unrest. At the same time, you will keep an eye on the big picture. The video below shows a clip with many of the most common worries regarding the sharing of data. The clip is based on a blog post by Carly Strasser.(4)

RDNL video on answers to possible worries researchers may have about sharing their data;
select HD quality for the best viewing experience.

Conversation tools: LSA

In the above clip the data supporter attempts to inspire and convince the client. This is not always the best strategy. If the client continues to ‘Yes, but’ with you, it is time to change tactics. A rule of thumb is that you’ve hit upon resistance when a conversation repeats itself. Apparently your supply doesn’t meet the demand, and substantial arguments will not get you any further. It that case, it is important to get to the worries behind the worries, for example by using the technique of LSA: listen, summarise, ask further questions.

  1. Stop talking and listen.
  2. Summarise what the client says and name what caught your ear:
    'If I understand correctly, you’re saying that…'
  3. Ask more questions. 

There is a YES behind each NO. A YES to undisturbed research, for example. If you can connect to this YES, you will connect to the client’s perception and experience. To do so it is important not to make assumptions about what another person is thinking.

    Case plain language

Project staff of the JISC project Incremental found that most researchers were unfamiliar with terms such as data archive, repository, preservation, metadata. The writers of the accompanying article(5) suggest translating data jargon to make advice more accessible. For example, they have stopped saying preservation and now use looking after your data.

   Case Connecting

In the below case you’ll read how Maarten van Bentum connects to the need for data support in the Water Engineering and Management research group of the University of Twente.

Maarten van Bentum:

“Data management needs are often latently present. When you ask about it, there initially are no data management problems. But after asking further questions some comments on data management start to surface. Such as the wish to improve sharing data produced within the group.

This also happened in the Water Engineering and Management (WEM) group of the UT. After a first conversation with the professor, she proposed taking a closer look at the existing data management and reviewing how improvements could be implemented at the lowest possible costs. These activities were to be performed as a pilot within the SURF project CARDS (only in Dutch).

After a first interview with the person responsible for the WEM data management, it turned out that he saw hardly any need for improving the group’s data management. The existing management was limited to collecting data sets on a central hard drive, without any further description of the sets or the possibility to search through the drive. The data was saved (albeit without any systematic approach) but was not or hardly reused within the group.

We decided to take stock of the ideas concerning data management within the group. Interviews with PhD students and research managers showed that the data management and (internal) sharing of data hardly registers on the radar of the doctoral candidates. The research managers, however, did care about it. After deliberations with one of them, the concrete idea arose to implement a tool for internal data management. Agreements on handling data could be made based on this tool. The costs of these improvements were limited to purchasing a new PC to install the tool on. Management will fall to the current responsible data manager of the group. 

What defines the success of this case? First of all, looking for and labouring for tangible improvements of an existing data management practice. An improvement that arose from the group itself. Secondly, the modest size, also where costs are concerned, of this improvement. Many groups struggle with a very tight budget that will not increase in the coming years. Finally, the success lay in the intensive collaboration with the group’s data manager. As a data supporter, you are also a person who brings knowledge and experience, and someone who counsels on steps to be taken in a data management improvement process.”

  An in-depth view

Conversation skills are of great importance for the success of data support. In this course, we will only briefly touch upon the subject. Would you like to know more? Follow an additional training on this subject or browse the following books.

  • Nathans, H. (2011). Adviseren als tweede beroep (3e druk). Kluwer.

    Professional expertise doesn’t suffice for success within an organisation. The job of adviser requires completely different skills. Hannah Nathans exemplifies which factors can play a hampering or stimulating role during counselling conversations. (Dutch)

  • Goethem, P. van (2012). IJs verkopen aan eskimo's (8e druk). Business Contact.

    In this book, Pacelle van Goethem states that your influence depends on the emotions you evoke and the level of involvement: how important is this subject to the client? (Dutch)

  • Patterson, K. ea. (2010). Crucial Conversations. Uitgeverij Boekwerk.

    Kerry Patterson shows how to create a safe atmosphere in which virtually everything can be discussed.

   Sources and additional reading

Click to open/close


  1. Martone, M.E. (2014), We want you to share your data. Brain and Behaviour, 4(1), 1-3. Retrieved from;jsessionid=7C23838612E2ECE97E7B9ED872D94755.f02t02
  3. Wallis, J.C.; Rolanda, E.; Borgman, L. (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
  4. Strasser, C. (2013, April 24). Closed data ... excuses, excuses. [blog]. Data pub. Retrieved from
  5. Freiman, W.C.; Molly, L.; Jones, S.; Snow, K. (2011). Making sense: talking data management with researchers. International Journal of Digital Curation, 6(2). Retrieved from

Additional reading

   Your additions

Have you ever experienced situations in which you could connect to the researchers’ or research group’s questions? Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments.