Best practices for data archiving

Researchers working in data-intensive science, as well as science editors and publishers thinking about data policies, may want to take note of a new article by Michael Whitlock, Data archiving in ecology and evolution: best practices in the current issue of Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Whitlock has long been a leader in advocating for data archiving and is the current Chair of the Dryad Consortium Board.  In this article he presents concrete suggestions for the what, how and when of data archiving.

But archiving is only half the equation.  Whitlock attempts to articulate sensible guidelines for data reuse, as well. Under what circumstances should researchers contact the original creators of the data set they are re-using, and when is co-authorship appropriate? How should authors properly acknowledge the original creators of the data?

Journals, editors, and publishers have an important role in promoting both data archiving and responsible data reuse.  One problem that merits broader discussion is how journals can conduct peer review so as to prevent data misuse.  Should researchers be given a chance to review manuscripts that report on new results reusing data that they originally published?  Or is it better to avoid the potential for conflict of interest (e.g. “how dare they not replicate my findings!”) and instead recruit independent experts?

Although the article is especially timely for those working in evolutionary biology and ecology, due to the recent adoption of mandatory data archiving at many of the leading journals in the field, these best practice recommendations are relevant across the sciences.

Michael C. Whitlock (2011) Data archiving in ecology and evolution: best practices, Trends in Ecology & Evolution,  26 (2): 61-65.  doi:10.1016/j.tree.2010.11.006.

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