Are astronomical studies with no “proprietary period” for data organized differently than studies with “proprietary period”?”

Let’s assume you are a group of astronomers that proposed an observation by a telescope.

The observation has been conducted, so you have got the data you wanted. But the data has no proprietary period. So everybody can access it by the internet.

If there are potential discoveries in the data, you would like to maximize the chance that your group will be the first to find them. It’s you who proposed the observation. It would be a pity if others were reported the finding ahead of you.

I can guess the data analysis will be more intensive compared to the case when there would have proprietary period when only you can access it. Also you may use new improved pipelines for data analysis which you do not make available for others.

These are my guesses. But in reality – do studies differ much for open astronomical data compared to proprietary data?

2 Answers

I can only tell from my experience, which might be not the ideal type of answer, but I will leave my 2 cents anyway:
For such cases I have seen essentially three different approaches:

  • Be fast: Publish your analysis before another group can scoop you. This is what you want to do if the interesting results are fairly obvious. This will then result in a shorter paper without deep analysis.
  • Be prepared: If you know that this observation will take place early enough and it is somewhat predictable, you can prepare the whole analysis with predicted or “faked” data and have a paper draft already prepared. That way you can just re-run your pipeline with the real data, update your paper draft and publish.
  • Be unique: Do something with the data, which you can be fairly sure nobody else can or will do. This might be the application of some model or algorithm that was developed by and is only available to your team.

So what you sometimes see for data that does public immediately is that instead of one detailed paper, you get a short one (by the same or another group) and detailed one later.

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