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I’ve been puzzling just now over FRPA – the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009, which was the topic of some lively congressional testimony yesterday afternoon.  Most commentary has focused on the immediate, and contentious, issue of whether to mandate open access to articles that are commercially published.  But I think there is another issue here.  FRPA perpetuates the misunderstanding, which seems common to much of the policy debate over open access publishing, that scientific research output is limited to whatever fits in the pages of a journal.

According to the proposed law, all federal agencies in the US with big-ticket extramural research budgets would be obligated to require of their funding recipients to make final peer-reviewed manuscripts available freely online w/in 6 mos.   The act specifically excludes “laboratory notes, preliminary data analyses, notes of the author, phone logs, or other information used to produce final manuscripts”.  So where does that leave the final dataset reported in the publication?  Good question – it doesn’t seem to be on the radar in this debate at all.

And that’s a pity, because the disposition of these data is something that funding agencies and publishers actually do agree on: “The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and The International Association of Scientific, Technical, & Medical Publishers (STM) issued a joint statement presenting the views of scholarly and scientific publishers concerning access to research data, including that submitted with research papers. The statement recommends that research data should be as widely available as possible…”

Well said ALPSP/STM!  I hope some congressional staffers are reading this.  If you are one of them, then please — don’t forget about the data.

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In a recent published editorial in Biotropica, Emilio Bruna makes the case for data archiving in tropical biology.

In his words, “… tropical ecosystems are undergoing myriad, rapid, and unprecedented environmental changes. The data collected by Biotropica’s authors could provide an invaluable resource to the scientists and decision-makers studying global change phenomena and designing conservation and management strategies.”

To read more, see: Bruna EM (2010) Scientific Journals can Advance Tropical Biology and Conservation by Requiring Data Archiving Biotropica. 42(4): 399–401. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-7429.2010.00652.x

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Nature journals now list Dryad among their suggested data repositories. Citing “an inherent principle of publication is that others should be able to replicate and build upon the authors’ published claims,” the editorial policies mandate data sharing and archiving.

The policy on data sets reads:

A condition of publication in a Nature journal is that authors are required to make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to others without preconditions.

Data sets must be made freely available to readers from the date of publication, and must be provided to editors and peer-reviewers at submission, for the purposes of evaluating the manuscript.

For the following types of data set, submission to a community-endorsed, public repository is mandatory. Accession numbers must be provided in the paper. Examples of appropriate public repositories are listed below.

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PANGAEA (Publishing Network for Geoscientific & Environmental Data) is a repository for geoscience data with many features similar to Dryad, including use of DOIs for data files.  A recent press release reports that Elsevier and PANGAEA have implemented reciprocal linking between data in the repository and journal articles.   Research data sets deposited at PANGAEA are now automatically linked to the corresponding articles in Elsevier journals on its electronic platform ScienceDirect and vice versa.   The data are freely available from the publication’s page in ScienceDirect, without a login or subscription.

Try it out:

  1. From this PANGAEA record, follow the DOI to the article in ScienceDirect (citations and abstracts only, unless you or your institution have subscription access)
  2. The PANGAEA link is to the right of the article with Supplementary Data beside it

This valuable two-way connectivity between data and article is most easily achieved when the data are captured at the time of article submission.  See this previous post for more on Dryad’s approach to this problem, which is designed to work across multiple publishers.

Similar to the appearance of the PANGAEA logo in the online version of the article, we are toying with the idea of calling attention to the link in the opposite direction by placing  journal cover images next to article DOIs in the Dryad display.  We’d like to hear your thoughts on that.  Is it helpful signage?  Or distracting eye candy?

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Panton Principles

“For science to effectively function, and for society to reap the full benefits from scientific endeavours, it is crucial that science data be made open.” The just-released Panton Principles propose that “data related to published science should be explicitly placed in the public domain.”

The creators recommend “adopting and acting on the following principles:”

  1. When publishing data make an explicit and robust statement of your wishes.
  2. Use a recognized waiver or license that is appropriate for data.
  3. If you want your data to be effectively used and added to by others it should be open as defined by the Open Knowledge/Data Definition – in particular non-commercial and other restrictive clauses should not be used.
  4. Explicit dedication of data underlying published science into the public domain via PDDL or CCZero is strongly recommended and ensures compliance with both the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data and the Open Knowledge/Data Definition.

These principles were written by Peter Murray-Rust, Cameron Neylon, Rufus Pollock and John Wilbanks at the Panton Arms in Cambridge, UK, and then refined by the Open Knowledge Foundation Working Group on Open Data in Science. There are open data web buttons available, and individuals and organizations can endorse the principles here.

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There are lots of opinions and answers to this question.  For starters, here’s a lively blog post, responding to this editorial last April.  Consider also this blog post.

What do you think are the barriers to data sharing?

Data from: Thompson S, Daniels K. 2010. A porous convection model for small-scale grass patterns. American Naturalist 175: E10-E15. Dryad Digital Repository. http://hdl.handle.net/10255/dryad.857

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The Journal of Evolutionary Biology, the journal of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, has just published an editorial supporting data archiving. The editorial is now available online:

The need for archiving data in evolutionary biology.  Allen J. Moore, Mark A. McPeek, Mark D. Rausher, Loren Rieseberg, Michael C. Whitlock.  Journal of Evolutionary Biology 2010.
Published Online: Feb 9 2010
DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.01937.x


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