Exploring a Generalist Repository for NIH-funded Data


In July 2019, NIH’s Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) established the NIH Figshare instance, a one-year pilot with existing generalist repository Figshare, to determine how biomedical researchers may use a generalist repository for sharing and reusing NIH-funded data.

NIH’s overarching goal is to support a more seamless repository ecosystem to ensure that data and other digital objects resulting from NIH research can be stored and shared with the research community. While NIH encourages the use of domain-specific or institutional repositories where available, not all datasets have a logical home in one of these repositories. This pilot allowed ODSS to test the need for and utility of a generalist repository to fill these gaps in the biomedical data repository landscape.

As part of the pilot project, the NIH Figshare instance offered some additional features that NIH wanted to test beyond Figshare’s standard features:

  • Search across NIH-funded data on Figshare.
  • Support for larger datasets and data files of any type.
  • Detailed, NIH-specific metadata to improve discoverability of research and direct links to NIH funding sources and publications.
  • User support from a Figshare team member with expertise in biomedical research, including review of data files and description to ensure highest quality and greatest discoverability.

Learn More about Generalist Repositories

NIH encourages researchers to use a generalist repository that meets OSTP criteria when a domain-specific or institutional repository is not available.

Read Dr. Gregurick's blog post offering "Some Insights on the Roles and Uses of Generalist Repositories."

See a comparison of generalist repositories at FAIRsharing.org.

See how generalist repositories are helping researchers share COVID-19 data.

Learn how generalist repositories are enhancing data discoverability and reuse.

Key Takeaways

Overall, this pilot demonstrated that generalist repositories can help fill gaps in the repository landscape for NIH-funded researchers and validated that there is use for a generalist repository that can accept heterogenous and large files. ODSS learned three key lessons from the pilot:

  1. Generalist repositories are growing. More researchers are depositing data and more publications are linking to generalist repositories.
  2. Researchers need more education and guidance on where to publish data and how to effectively describe datasets with detailed metadata.
  3. Metadata enhancement enables greater discoverability. Expert metadata review proved to be one of the most impactful and unique features of the pilot instance.

Figshare vs. NIH Figshare metadata

When compared to uploads indicating NIH funding to the main Figshare repository, the NIH Figshare instance had uploads with titles that are 2x in length and descriptions that are 3x in length.

While the NIH Figshare instance is now an archive, the data is still discoverable and reusable.

Want to learn more about this project? Watch a video of Figshare's founder and CEO, Mark Hahnel, Ph.D., discuss project outcomes and lessons learned, as well as his thoughts on the future of data sharing, or read a summary in this NIH Record article.

Project Outcomes

Over the course of the one-year pilot, NIH assessed how the NIH Figshare instance was meeting researchers’ needs and how it was making an impact on data sharing and discovery. Key outcomes of the assessment are below. 

  • 366 users, 209 uploaded items, 1499 GB of storage used.Figshare dashboard
  • 30,167 total page views.
  • Email campaigns and webinars resulted in 31% of new users.
  • 22% of data in the NIH Figshare Instance came from intramural researchers across 9 NIH institutes and centers.
  • 72% of items uploaded were datasets; other item types include code, software, figures, multimedia files, workflows, and online resources.
  • The repository instance includes data funded by 22 different NIH institutes and centers.
  • 29 different public items in NIH Figshare have each been cited at least once, and five items have been cited twice.
  • When compared to uploads indicating NIH funding to the main Figshare repository, the NIH Figshare instance had files that are 8x in size and with 2.5x as many views.

Figshare vs. NIH Figshare Items

NIH Figshare Instance Case Studies

Five case studies take a deeper dive into the ways the instance made an impact:

Read 10 use cases from the pilot

To learn more about the NIH Figshare instance, visit the “About” page of the archive. For technical questions about the NIH Figshare archive or using figshare.com to share NIH-funded research, consult this guide or contact info@figshare.com. For information about sharing NIH data using repositories, contact datascience@nih.gov.

This page last reviewed on May 25, 2021