For those who’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that we just published an interesting Perspective in PLOS Biology from Dominique Roche and colleagues that provides some practical hints on how to improve public data archiving for scientific research.
The new Data Policy will be implemented for manuscripts submitted on, or after, March 1st. The main change is that all PLOS journals will require that all manuscripts have an accompanying data availability statement for the data used in that piece of research. We’re well aware that this may prove to be a challenge, but we think that this thorny issue needs to be tackled head-on. Ultimately, an Open Access paper for which the underlying data are not available doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Roche and colleagues raise some important and interesting points in their perspective and do a fine job of detailing the benefits to the scientific community of making data available. But for the eagle-eyed you’ll note an incongruity between their suggestion that a longer embargo period might be necessary before data need to be made available for some subjects, while the PLOS policy won’t make that distinction.
We don’t all have to agree here, and for the short term this may mean that some choose to send their research somewhere that permits them to keep their data under wraps. But funding agencies are also moving more towards our viewpoint, implementing requirements that data be made available. Whether researchers like it or not, this is something that needs to be addressed; it’s time to start ensuring there are better lab, university and institution practices for the storage and archiving of pertinent data.
If what we really want to see is optimal advancement of science, then open access to research means open access to as much as possible associated with the paper and not just the paper itself. What should such openness include? Well – probably everything – from methods to code to materials to equipment. But without a doubt a key component of openness is access to the data behind a study. Access to data facilitates reproducibility and testing of a papers conclusions and methods and also enables new discoveries to be made without the expense of redoing the experiments. We believe that the more open we all are about open data, the more we discuss the benefits and challenges, and the more we shift the bar towards openness, the better off all of science will be.
Roche DG, Lanfear R, Binning SA, Haff TM, Schwanz LE, et al. (2014). Troubleshooting Public Data Archiving: Suggestions to Increase Participation. PLoS Biology, 12 (1): e1001779. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001779
More posts on PLOS Biologue about data:
“Dude, where’s my data?” by Roli Roberts
“Improving data access at PLOS” By John Chodacki
“Dealing with data” by Theo Bloom