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Reuse of scientific data in academic publicationsPurpose In recent years, a large number of data repositories have been built and used. However, the extent to which scientific data is reused in academic publications is still unknown. This article explores the functions of re-used scientific data in scholarly publication in different fields. Design/methodology/approach To address these questions, we identified 827 publications citing resources in the Dryad Digital Repository (DDR) indexed by Scopus from 2010 to 2015. Findings The results show that: (i) the number of citations to scientific data increases sharply over the years, but mainly from data-intensive disciplines, such as Agricultural, Biology Science, Environment Science and Medicine; (ii) the majority of citations are from the originating articles; (iii) researchers tend to reuse data produced by their own research groups. Research limitations/implications data may be re-used without being formally cited. Originality/value The conservatism in data sharing suggests that more should be done to encourage researchers to re-use other’s data.