UK Parliament report supports Dryad and data access

Dryad has won high-level support from the UK Parliament. Its Select Committee on Science and Technology has been reporting on the peer review of scientific publications. Among the questions it considered was:  How far should reviewers be expected to go to assess technical soundness? The report discusses the feasibility of reviewing the underlying data behind research, and how those data should be managed.

Section 4 of the report (para 189) concludes:

If reviewers and editors are to assess whether authors of manuscripts are providing sufficient accompanying data, it is essential that they are given confidential access to relevant data associated with the work during the peer-review process. This can be problematical in the case of the large and complex datasets which are becoming increasingly common. The Dryad project is an initiative seeking to address this. If it proves successful, funding should be sought to expand it to other disciplines. Alternatively, we recommend that funders of research and publishers work together to develop similar repositories for other disciplines.

The Science and Technology Committee concludes that in order to allow others to repeat and build on experiments, researchers should aim for the gold standard of making their data fully disclosed and made publicly available:

Access to data is fundamental if researchers are to reproduce, verify and build on results that are reported in the literature. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the importance of openness and transparency. The presumption must be that, unless there is a strong reason otherwise, data should be fully disclosed and made publicly available. In line with this principle, where possible, data associated with all publicly funded research should be made widely and freely available. Funders of research must coordinate with publishers to ensure that researchers disclose their data in a timely manner. The work of researchers who expend time and effort adding value to their data, to make it usable by others, should be acknowledged as a valuable part of their role. Research funders and publishers should explore how researchers could be encouraged to add this value.

H.M.S.O. Science and Technology  Committee. Eighth Report: Peer review in scientific publications. Published 28 July 2011  Available at:

Looking for Research Data? What Matters to You?

What matters to you when looking for research data in a repository? UK based Digital Curation Centre is looking for Dryad users to complete a 10 minute questionnaire on this. Results will contribute to an assessment framework for Dryad, and the questionnaire includes entry to a competition for $80/ £50 Amazon tokens. DCC are carrying this out as part of the Dryad UK project, which also involves the British Library and Oxford University’s Image Bioinformatics Lab.

Why aren’t cancer microarray datasets archived more often?

A new study in PLoS ONE by Heather Piwowar, a postdoctoral associate affiliated with DataONE, Dryad, and NESCent, reveals interesting trends in the archiving of data underlying published microarray results.  From the press release:

By querying the full text of the scientific literature through websites like Google Scholar and PubMed Central, Piwowar identified eleven thousand studies that collected a particular type of data about cellular activity, called gene expression microarray data. Only 45% of recent gene expression studies were found to have deposited their data in the public databases developed for this purpose. The rate of data publication has increased only slightly from 2007 to 2009. Data is shared least often from studies on cancer and human subjects: cancer studies make their data available for wide reuse half as often as similar studies outside cancer.

“It was disheartening to discover that studies on cancer and human subjects were least likely to make their data available. These data are surely some of the most valuable for reuse, to confirm, refute, inform and advance bench-to-bedside translational research,” Piwowar said.

“We want as much scientific progress as we can get from our tax and charity dollars. This requires increased access to data resources. Data can be shared while maintaining patient privacy,” Piwowar added, noting that patient re-identification is rarely an issue for gene expression microarray studies.

Reference:  Piwowar, H. (2011). “Who shares? Who doesn’t? Factors associated with openly archiving raw research data.” PLoS ONE 6(7): e18657. doi:18610.11371/journal.pone.0018657

“In the spirit of the topic”, the data behind the study are publicly available in Dryad at doi:10.5061/dryad.mf1sd