How often do cancer researchers make their data and code available and what factors are associated with sharing?

Daniel G. Hamilton, Matthew J. Page, Sue Finch, Sarah Everitt, Fiona Fidler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Various stakeholders are calling for increased availability of data and code from cancer research. However, it is unclear how commonly these products are shared, and what factors are associated with sharing. Our objective was to evaluate how frequently oncology researchers make data and code available and explore factors associated with sharing. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of a random sample of 306 cancer-related articles indexed in PubMed in 2019 which studied research subjects with a cancer diagnosis was performed. All articles were independently screened for eligibility by two authors. Outcomes of interest included the prevalence of affirmative sharing declarations and the rate with which declarations connected to data complying with key FAIR principles (e.g. posted to a recognised repository, assigned an identifier, data license outlined, non-proprietary formatting). We also investigated associations between sharing rates and several journal characteristics (e.g. sharing policies, publication models), study characteristics (e.g. cancer rarity, study design), open science practices (e.g. pre-registration, pre-printing) and subsequent citation rates between 2020 and 2021. Results: One in five studies declared data were publicly available (59/306, 19%, 95% CI: 15–24%). However, when data availability was investigated this percentage dropped to 16% (49/306, 95% CI: 12–20%), and then to less than 1% (1/306, 95% CI: 0–2%) when data were checked for compliance with key FAIR principles. While only 4% of articles that used inferential statistics reported code to be available (10/274, 95% CI: 2–6%), the odds of reporting code to be available were 5.6 times higher for researchers who shared data. Compliance with mandatory data and code sharing policies was observed in 48% (14/29) and 0% (0/6) of articles, respectively. However, 88% of articles (45/51) included data availability statements when required. Policies that encouraged data sharing did not appear to be any more effective than not having a policy at all. The only factors associated with higher rates of data sharing were studying rare cancers and using publicly available data to complement original research. Conclusions: Data and code sharing in oncology occurs infrequently, and at a lower rate than would be expected given the prevalence of mandatory sharing policies. There is also a large gap between those declaring data to be available, and those archiving data in a way that facilitates its reuse. We encourage journals to actively check compliance with sharing policies, and researchers consult community-accepted guidelines when archiving the products of their research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number438
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Cancer
  • Code sharing
  • Data sharing
  • FAIR principles
  • Oncology

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