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We’re beginning a series highlighting researchers who use Dryad to openly publish their research data. We ask them about their current projects, why they believe in open science, and why they choose Dryad.

photo of Zach Gompert

Zach Gompert

For our first researcher profile, we talked with Dr. Zach Gompert, assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Utah State University, about how his work ties in with open science:

Dryad: What is your area of research and what’s your current focus?

Gompert: The overarching goal in my lab is to advance understanding of the extent, organization, causes, and consequences of variation in nature. Some of the issues were are investigating are:

  • What are the evolutionary consequences of hybridization?
  • How does the evolution of novel ecological interactions affect biodiversity?
  • Is temporal variation in natural selection a key determinant of genetic diversity levels in natural populations?

We address these questions through population genomic analyses of natural and experimental populations, and through development of new theory and statistical methods. Our work on Lycaenid butterflies shows that hybridization can be a key creative force in animal evolution and that evolutionary histories are not always well represented by the ‘evolutionary tree’ metaphor. In other words, lineages don’t just split, they come back together.

We have quite a few datasets in Dryad now, including partial genome sequences from over a thousand butterflies.

butterfly in field

Lycaeides melissa

Dryad: What do you think about open science in general? What are advantages of open science? 

Gompert: Science has always been a communal endeavor. Large-scale collaboration is vital now for a number of reasons:

  • Diverse expertise. Many key questions require a diverse group of investigators. This results in big, multifaceted datasets and necessitates rapid sharing of data, methods, and findings.
  • Re-purposing data. It’s common now for data and methods to have applications beyond those that they were originally collected or developed for. Open science allows these to be used by other investigators, accelerating the rate of discovery.
  • Data integrity. Openness ensures a higher level of quality and integrity. When data and methods are available for scrutiny, possible errors are more likely to be identified and corrected. This is particularly relevant for large-scale, multi-investigator projects.
  • Public funding and access. Since much of science is funded by the public, I think scientists have an ethical duty to make the products of research available to everyone.

Dryad: In your opinion, what are disadvantages or concerns about open science?

Gompert: There are two common concerns:

  • Getting scooped. Researchers can be scooped if another group analyzes and publishes the data they generated. While this has some validity, sufficient safeguards and community standards are in place to minimize this problem, and it’s minor compared to the advantages of openness.
  • Poor documentation. I think data archiving is in better shape than it once was, but much of archived data or code are not sufficiently documented to truly be useful to others. Enhancing documentation of data is a big area where we as a community need to do more.

Dryad: You have over 20 datasets archived in Dryad. What do you see as the benefits of data sharing in Dryad?

Gompert: The primary strength of Dryad is its flexibility, specifically the ability to archive diverse types of data (and computer code) in a single location and to link to other more specialized databases such as NCBI. With Dryad, researchers have a central location where they can find all of the data associated with a publication.

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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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A recent article, Motivating Online Publication of Data, in BioScience identifies multiple benefits for scientific authors when they publish data online.   Among them are:

•    additional publications
•    greater citation rate
•    invitations to collaborate

Author Mark Costello is a marine biologist at the University of Auckland, and has written widely on ocean biodiversity informatics.

Costello argues that Considering that science is based on observations, it is astonishing that the publication of primary data is not a universal and mandatory part of science.

He presents a cogent analysis of why data publication is crucial, how it can be encouraged, and what scientists, editors, and publishers must do to ensure access to data.   In addition to itemizing varied and far-reaching benefits to data archiving, he also repeats oft-stated reasons scientists have given for not making their data available, and rebuts them succinctly.

Authors are not the only beneficiaries when data is openly available.   Considerable benefits exist for editors, publishers, data centers and funding agencies, including:

•    independent verification of research findings
•    increased citations to related research papers
•    better financial return from research investment

Data sharing is fundamental for scientific advancement; no arguments there.  But how encourage data publication as a routine component of scientific research?  We need to identify the benefits, and ensure that repositories, publishers, and other participants in the research process pay attention to incentives, implicit and otherwise, throughout the publication cycle.

Costello’s article is a good place to start.

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