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Archive for the ‘Data availability’ Category

The following guest post is from Tim Vines, Managing Editor of Molecular Ecology and Molecular Ecology Resources.  ME and MER have among the most effective data archiving policies of any Dryad partner journal, as measured by the availability of data for reuse [1].  In this post, which may be useful to other journals figuring out how to support data archiving, Tim explains how Molecular Ecology’s approach has been refined over time.

newsman

Ask almost anyone in the research community, and they’ll say that archiving the data associated with a paper at publication is really important. Making sure it actually happens is not quite so simple. One of the main obstacles is that it’s hard to decide which data from a study should be made public, and this is mainly because consistent data archiving standards have not yet been developed.

It’s impossible for anyone to write exhaustive journal policies laying out exactly what each kind of study should archive (I’ve tried), so the challenge is to identify for each paper which data should be made available.

Before I describe how we currently deal with this issue, I should give some history of data archiving at Molecular Ecology. In early 2010 we joined with the five other big evolution journals in adopting the ‘Joint Data Archiving Policy’, which mandates that “authors make all the data required to recreate the results in their paper available on a public archive”. This policy came into force in January 2011, and since all five journals brought it in at the same time it meant that no one journal suffered the effects of bringing in a (potentially) unpopular policy.

To help us see whether authors really had archived all the required datasets, we started requiring that authors include ‘Data Accessibility’ (DA) section in the final version of their manuscript. This DA section lists where each dataset is stored, and normally appears after the references.  For example:

Data Accessibility:

  • DNA sequences: Genbank accessions F234391-F234402
  • Final DNA sequence assembly uploaded as online supplemental material
  • Climate data and MaxEnt input files: Dryad doi:10.5521/dryad.12311
  • Sampling locations, morphological data and microsatellite genotypes: Dryad doi:10.5521/dryad.12311

We began back in 2011 by including a few paragraphs about our data archiving policies in positive decision letters (i.e. ‘accept, minor revisions’ and ‘accept’), which asked for a DA section to be added to the manuscript during their final revisions. I would also add a sticky note to the ScholarOne Manuscripts entry for the paper indicating which datasets I thought should be listed. Most authors added the DA, but generally only included some of the data. I then switched to putting my list into the decision letter itself, just above the policy itself. For example:

“Please don’t forget to add the Data Accessibility section- it looks like this needs a file giving sampling details, morphology and microsatellite genotypes for all adults and offspring. Please also consider providing the input files for your analyses.”

This was much more effective than expecting the authors to work out which data we wanted. However, it still meant that I was combing through the abstract and the methods trying to work out what data had been generated in that manuscript.

We use ScholarOne Manuscripts’ First Look system for handling accepted papers, and we don’t export anything to be typeset until we’re satisfied with the DA section. Being strict about this makes most authors deal with our DA requirements quickly (they don’t want their paper delayed), but a few take longer while we help authors work out what we want.

The downside of this whole approach is that it takes me quite a lot of effort to work out what should appear in the DA section, and would be impossible in a journal where an academic does not see the final version of the paper. A more robust long-term strategy has to involve the researcher community in identifying which data should be archived.

I’ll flesh out the steps below, but simply put our new approach is to ask authors to include a draft Data Accessibility section at initial submission. This draft DA section should list each dataset and say where the authors expect to archive it. As long as the DA section is there (even if it’s empty) we send the paper on to an editor. If it makes it to reviewers, we ask them to check the DA section and point out what datasets are missing.

A paper close to acceptance can thus contain a complete or nearly complete DA section. Furthermore, any deficiencies should have been pointed out in review and corrected in revision. The editorial office now has the much easier task of checking over the final DA section and making sure that all the accession numbers etc. are added before the article is exported to be typeset.

The immediate benefit is that authors are encouraged to think about data archiving while they’re still writing the paper – it’s thus much more an integral part of manuscript preparation than an afterthought. We’ve also found that a growing proportion of papers (currently about 20%) are being submitted with a completed DA section that requires no further action on our part. I expect that this proportion will be more like 80% in two years, as this seems to be how long it takes to effect changes in author or reviewer behavior.

Since the fine grain of the details may be of interest, I’ve broken down the individual steps below:

1) The authors submit their paper with a draft ‘Data Accessibility’ (DA) statement in the manuscript; this lists where the authors plan to archive each of their datasets. We’ve included a required checkbox in the submission phase that states ‘A draft Data Accessibility statement is present in the manuscript’.

2) Research papers submitted without a DA section are held in the editorial office checklist and the authors contacted to request one. In the first few months of using this system we have found that c. 40% of submissions don’t have the statement initially, but after we request it the DA is almost always emailed within 3-4 days. If we don’t hear for five working days we unsubmit the paper; this has happened to about only 5% of papers.

3) If the paper makes it out to review, the reviewers are asked to check whether all the necessary datasets are listed, and if not, request additions in the main body of their review. Specifically, our ‘additional questions’ section of the review tab in S1M now contains the question: “Does the Data Accessibility section list all the datasets needed to recreate the results in the manuscript? If ‘No’, please specify which additional data are needed in your comments to the authors.”  Reviewers can choose ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘I didn’t check’; the latter is important because reviewers who haven’t looked at the DA section aren’t forced to arbitrarily click ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

4) The decision letter is sent to the authors with the question from (3) included. Since we’re still in the early days of this system and less than a quarter of our reviewers understand how to evaluate the DA section, I am still checking the data myself and requesting that any missing datasets be included in the revision. This is much easier than before as there is a draft DA section to work with and sometimes some feedback from the reviewers.

5) The editorial office then makes sure that any deficiencies identified by myself or the reviewers are dealt with by the time the paper goes to be typeset; this is normally dealt with at the First Look stage.

I’d be very happy to help anyone that would like to know more about this system or its implementation – please contact me at managing.editor@molecol.com

[1] Vines TH, Andrew RL, Bock DG, Franklin MT, Gilbert KJ, Kane NC, Moore JS, Moyers BT, Renaut S, Rennison DJ, Veen T, Yeaman S. Mandated data archiving greatly improves access to research data. FASEB J. 2013 Jan 8. Epub ahead of print.  Update: Also available from arXiv.

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If you have data packages in Dryad, consider adding a button like this next to each one on the publication list of your website or your electronic CV.

You can make a link between the button and the individual data package page on Dryad to enrich your publication list and make it easy to find your data.

Props to our early adopters below.  Check out their pages for some examples.

For other ways to show your support, please visit our page of publicity material on the Dryad wiki.  Let us know if you come up with creative ways to promote your data in Dryad. And additional suggestions are always welcome at help@datadryad.org.

Have at it!

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Dryad is delighted to join with PLOS today to announce our partnership with PLOS Biologyas described here on the official PLOS Biology blog, Biologue.  As the first Public Library of Science (PLOS) journal to partner with Dryad to integrate manuscript submission, “PLOS Biology can offer authors a seamless tying together of an article with its underlying data; [and] can also provide confidential access for editors and reviewers to data associated with articles under review.”
PLoS Biology - www.plosbiology.org

Here’s how it works: During manuscript evaluation, PLOS Biology invites authors to deposit the underlying data files in Dryad, sending them a link to Dryad which enables a streamlined upload process (no need to enter the article details).  Authors may deposit complex and varied data types in multiple formats, and these files are then accessible to editors and reviewers by anonymous and secure access during the manuscript review process.  Behind the scenes, the journal’s editorial system and the Dryad repository exchange metadata, ensuring that upon publication, the article links to the associated data in Dryad, and permanently connecting the published article with its securely archived, publicly available data.

Dr. Theodora Bloom, Chief Editor, PLOS Biology, mentions that journals “are uniquely well-placed to help researchers ensure that all data underlying a study are made available alongside any published articles.”

We welcome PLOS Biology authors and editors to Dryad, and look forward to extending this partnership to other PLOS journals.

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A number of enhancements to the repository have been made in recent months, including these three that were in high demand from users:

  • First, we have modified our submission process to enable the data to be deposited prior to editorial review of the manuscript. Journals that integrate manuscript and data submission at the review stage can now offer their editors and peer reviewers anonymous access to the data in Dryad while the manuscript is in review. This option is currently being used by several of our partner journals, BMJ Open, Molecular Ecology, and Systematic Biology, and is available to any existing or future integrated journal. Note: authors still begin their data deposit process at the journal.
  • Second, when authors submit data associated with previously published articles, they can pull up the article information using the article DOI or its PubMed ID, greatly simplifying the deposition process for legacy data.
  • Third, Dryad now supports versioning of datafiles. Authors can upload new versions of their files to correct or update the original file. Once logged in to their Dryad account, the My Submissions option appears under My Account in the left side-menu. Prior unfinished and completed submissions are listed; selecting an archived submission allows the author to add a new file.  Note that the earlier versions of the file will still be available to users, but the metadata may be modified to reflect the reason for the update. The DOIs will be appended with a number (e.g., “.1”, “.2”) so that each version can be uniquely referenced.  By default, users will be shown the most current version of each datafile.  They will be notified of the existence of any previous/subsequent versions.
  • Access and download statistics have been displayed for content in the repository since late 2010; Dryad now displays the statistics for an article’s data together on one page so you can see at a glance how many times the page has been viewed and how many times each component data file has been downloaded. Check out this example from Evolutionary Applications.

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Christopher Pirrone excavating an odontocete skull (photo by Robert Boessenecker)

Perhaps it’s understandable that paleontologists are committed to preserving the scientific record, since they spend a lot of time and energy finding and extracting shreds of evidence millions of years old.  Now, thanks to a partnership between Dryad and The Paleontological Society announced last year [1], coupled with strong data archiving policies adopted by two of its journals (Paleobiology and the Journal of Paleontology), a rich trove of data will be available for future researchers to unearth from Dryad.

For both journals, authors are being instructed to deposit the underlying data at the time their manuscript is submitted, so that editors and referees will be able to review it prior to acceptance.  Once published on Dryad, the data will be independently discoverable and citable, while at the same time prominently linked both to and from the original article.  Researchers are able to track the reuse impact of their data, independent of the citation impact of their article, by monitoring downloads from Dryad.

Preserved for ages.

Smilodon, by Charles Knight (1905), from a mural at the American Museum of Natural History.

Here’s an example from a recent issue of Paleobiology to sink your teeth into:

Article: Meachen-Samuels JA (2012) Morphological convergence of the prey-killing arsenal of sabertooth predators. Paleobiology 38(1): 1-14. doi:10.1666/10036.1

Data: Meachen-Samuels JA (2012) Data from: Morphological convergence of the prey-killing arsenal of sabertooth predators. Dryad Digital Repository. http://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h58q6

References:

[1]  Callaway E (2011) Fossil data enter the web period. Nature 472, 150. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/472150a

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doctor silencedA recent issue of BMJ highlighted the problem of missing clinical trial data from medical research, exploring both the causes and consequences of unpublished evidence.  One of the articles, from Andrew Prayle and colleagues [1], examined compliance with the US Food and Drug Administration’s ostensibly mandatory requirement that clinical trials report their results in ClinicalTrials.gov, as required by the the FDA Amendments Act (FDAAA) of 2007. Alarmingly, they found that only 22% of trials that should have reported results had actually done so.  Interestingly, industry-funded trials reported results at a higher frequency than other funders.  They conclude:

If the reporting rate does not increase, the laudable FDAAA legislation will not achieve its goal of improving the accessibility of trial results.

Fortunately for those interested in this research, the authors have ensured that their own data are available by depositing them in Dryad, where they have already been downloaded by over 100 users.

For more on the disturbing state of affairs in reporting of clinical trial data, we offer the irrepressible Ben Goldacre speaking at the Strata 2012 conference in February.

[1] Prayle AP, Hurley MN, Smyth AR (2012) Compliance with mandatory reporting of clinical trial results on ClinicalTrials.gov: cross sectional study. BMJ 343: d7373. doi:10.1136/bmj.d7373

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Until recently, Mark Hahnel was a PhD student in stem cell biology. Frustrated by seeing how much of his own research output didn’t make it to publications, he endeavored to do something about it by developing a scientific file sharing platform called FigShare. Recently, Mark and FigShare were taken under the wing of Digital Science, a Nature Publishing Group spinoff, and a sleek new FigShare was relaunched in January 2012 with many more features and an ambitious scope.

FigShare allows researchers to publish all of their research outputs in seconds in an easily citable, sharable and discoverable manner. All file formats can be published, including videos and datasets that are often demoted to the supplemental materials section in current publishing models. By opening up the peer review process, researchers can easily publish null results, avoiding the file drawer effect and helping to make scientific research more efficient.

Users do not have to pay for access to the content: public data is made available under the terms of a CC0 waiver and other content under CC-BY.  And FigShare is currently providing unlimited public space and 1GB of private storage space for free.

This is a promising solution for getting negative and otherwise unpublished results out into the world (figures, tables, data, etc.) in a way that is discoverable and citable.  Importantly, much of this content would not be appropriate for Dryad, since it is not associated with (and not documented by) an authoritative publication.

There are clearly some challenges to the FigShare model.  A big one, shared with many other Open Science experiments that disseminate prior to peer review, is ensuring that there is adequate documentation for users to assess fitness for reuse.  Another challenge that Dryad is greatly concerned about is guaranteeing that the content will still be usable, and there will be the means to host it, ten or twenty years down the road.  These are reflections of larger unanswered questions about how the research community can best take advantage of the web for scholarly communication, and how to optimize filtering, curating or preserving such communications. To answer these questions, the world of open data needs many more more innovative projects like FigShare.

Considering FigShare’s relaunch suggests a few strengths of the Dryad model:

  • Dryad works with journals to integrate article and data submission, streamlining the deposit process.
  • Dryad curators review files for technical problems before they are released, and ensure that their metadata enables optimal retrieval.
  • Dryad’s scope is focused on data files associated with published articles in the biosciences (plus software scripts and other files important to the article.)
  • Dryad can make data securely available during peer review, at the request of the journal.
  • Dryad is community-led, with priorities and policies shaped by the members of the Dryad Consortium, including scientific societies, publishers, and other stakeholder organizations.
  • Dryad can be accessed programmatically through a sitemap or OAI-PMH interface.
  • Dryad content is searchable and replicated through the DataONE network, and it handshakes with other repositories to coordinate data submission.

For more about Dryad, browse the repository or see Why Should I Choose Dryad for My Data?

A file sharing platform and a data repository are different animals, to be sure; both have a place in a lively open data ecosystem. We wish success to the Digital Science team, and look forward to both working together, and challenging each other, to better meet the needs of the research community.  To see what other options are out there for different disciplines and types of data, DataCite provides an updated list of list of research data repositories.

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