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“Publishing articles without making the data available is scientific malpractice”

24 May, 13 | by BMJ

This week has seen a flurry of activity on Twitter owing to a series of separate but related events highlighting trends in scholarly communication and research data. The fun kicked off with Wednesday’s ‘Now and Future of Data Publishing’ event organised by the Jisc Managing Research Data programme. It was followed on Thursday by the  ORCID Outreach Meeting, Getting Credit for Your Work: A Symposium on Research Attribution (jointly organised by Dryad and ORCID) and concludes with today’s Dryad Membership Meeting.

An obvious but important message that underpinned discussions on all three days was the importance of sharing data.  On the first morning, Simon Hodson of Jisc quoted Geoffrey Boulton of the Royal Society (who have made sharing data a condition of publication): “Publishing articles without making the data available is scientific malpractice.” This is an extreme but not uncommon view.

Trish Groves, deputy editor of the BMJ, recently wrote a summary of recent and future developments around sharing clinical data. The big news our end is that we now require authors of drug and devices trials to deposit their anonymised patient level data—on reasonable request. However, our interest in data publication started back in 2009 when we first incorporated data sharing statements into all BMJ research papers. More recently, we have encouraged our authors to deposit their data in Dryad and the first article to link through to a Dryad dataset was published by BMJ Open in 2011. We now have just under 40 papers with links to datasets on Dryad.

BMJ is by no means the only publisher experimenting with how best to integrate associated research data into published articles. While we link through to individual data sets on Dryad from our data sharing statements, there are a number of other options being developed.

I first blogged about FigShare back in Feb 2012. Since then, they’ve collaborated with a number of big publishers, including PLOS, Faculty of 1000 and Nature Publishing Group. They offer a distinctly unique set of embeddable widgets, which allow readers to view the underlying data within the article view rather than clicking through to a separate website (see an example from PLOS below).


FigShare is also collaborating with Nature Publishing Group (NPG) on Scientific Data, one of a new breed of data journals for articles describing datasets deposited elsewhere, including biomedical research data. Notably, it will not be a condition of publication that any papers referring to the datasets be published in NPG journals.

As more funders and learned societies call for new ways to make research data more available, reusable and reproducible, it will be interesting to see how established and emerging platforms will work with researchers and publishers to make access to data as pain-free as possible.

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