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The journal Evolution has joined other Dryad partner journals in announcing a new data archiving policy mandating, as a condition of publication, that the data used in a paper be made publicly available.

The editorial says

Data that are properly archived are saved for posterity, and the archives also function to preserve data in a useable form for the original authors. Moreover, if datasets are put into a readily interpretable format while the methods and structure of the data are foremost in the scientists’ minds, that data can be used later more easily by those scientists and others.

When fully in place, the policy will require authors to archive the data required to support the conclusions in their published paper, along with sufficient details that a third party can reasonably interpret those data correctly.

To be implemented next year, the policy is parallel to those already announced by two other prominent journals, also Dryad partners:

  • Whitlock, M. C., M. A. McPeek, M. D. Rausher, L. Rieseberg, and A. J. Moore. 2010. Data Archiving. American Naturalist. 175:145-146, doi:10.1086/650340
  • Rieseberg, L., T. Vines, and N. Kane. Editorial and retrospective 2010. Molecular Ecology. 19:1-22, doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04450.x

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A new commentary piece, Linking big: the continuing promise of evolutionary synthesis,  in the journal Evolution describes the promise of “synthetic science,”  which includes re-use of data sets,  research results, or unconnected methods or concepts,  leading to new discoveries or trends.    The authors, who all are affiliated with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent),  argue for removing the cultural and technological barriers to enable new breakthroughs.

“By putting together pieces of prior research, it is possible to transform how you do science and open the doors to findings that previously were unattainable,” said Brian Sidlauskas, a fish biologist from Oregon State University and lead author on the Evolution article. “But such an approach runs counter to the way science traditionally has been conducted, so pursuing synthetic science is somewhat risky.”

“We need to reduce the risk, remove the barriers, and encourage more pursuit of synthesis because the potential,” he added, “is staggering.”

Sidlauskas cites access to actionable data as one of the major obstacles. “When you’re looking to synthesize data from several hundred individual studies, data formatting, storage and accessibility become huge issues,” he said.   He says that  “…the vast majority of data supporting previous studies are unavailable, often because the data are lost or preserved in inaccessible forms (notebooks, floppy disks).”

The article refers to Dryad as

… working to alleviate the problem of data availability by providing an open-access home for ecological and evolutionary data that does not fit into more specialized repositories. Dryad actively works with a coalition of journals and scientific societies to make deposition of all data a normal part of the research workflow. As more journals require data deposition as part of the manuscript publication process, the opportunities for potential syntheses linking such data will increase substantially.

Sidlauskas adds, “It’s kind of an open-source approach to science,” he added. “Data archives may require some kind of proprietary protection for a few months or years, but after a certain amount of time, they should become public domain. Only by saving the data that underlie today’s science will we allow future scientists to use those data in ways that may far exceed what the original researchers envisioned.”

Other authors on the commentary piece include Ganeshkumar Ganapathy, of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent); Einat Hazkani-Covo, Duke University Medical Center; Kristin P. Jenkins, NESCent; Hilmar Lapp, NESCent; Lauren W. McCall, NESCent; Samantha Price, University of California-Davis; Ryan Scherle, NESCent; Paula A. Spaeth, Northland College; and David M. Kidd, NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London.

CITATION: Sidlauskas, B., G. Ganapathy, et al. (2010). “Linking big: The continuing promise of evolutionary synthesis.” Evolution doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00892.x.

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A strong editorial on data archiving is now available online in the February issue of The American Naturalist.

Authors Michael C. Whitlock, Mark A. McPeek, Mark D. Rausher, Loren Rieseberg, and Allen J. Moore present the case for the importance of data archiving in science.   This is the first of several coordinated editorials soon to appear in major journals:

To promote the preservation and fuller use of data, The American Naturalist, Evolution, the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Ecology, Heredity, and other key journals in evolution and ecology will soon introduce a new data‐archiving policy. The policy has been enacted by the Executive Councils of the societies owning or sponsoring the journals.

Citation: Am Nat 2010. Vol. 175, pp. 145–146. DOI: 10.1086/650340

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Welcome to the new Dryad blog…..  a place for news and views about the Dryad digital repository, data archiving, open data, and more.

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