An excerpt: Open your minds and share your results
An open approach is the best way to maximize the benefits of research for both scientists and the public, says Geoffrey Boulton
There is a compelling case for having open access to scientific papers, to enhance the efficacy and reach of scientific communication. But important though this is, the open-access debate has drawn attention away from a deeper issue that is at the heart of the scientific process: that of ‘open data’. In an attempt to focus much-needed attention on this subject, I chaired a group that produced Science as an Open Enterprise, a policy report from the Royal Society in London, published last week.
Open enquiry has been at the heart of science since the first scientific journals were printed in the seventeenth century. Publication of scientific theories — and the supporting experimental and observational data — permits others to identify errors, to reject or refine theories and to reuse data. Science’s capacity for self-correction comes from this openness to scrutiny and challenge.
In the Royal Society report, we argue that this procedure must become the norm, required by journals and accepted by the scientific community as mandatory. As scientists, we have some way to go to achieve this. A recent study of the 50 highest-impact journals in biomedicine showed that only 22 required specific raw data to be made available as a condition of publication. Only 40% of papers fully adhered to the policy and only 9% had deposited the full raw data online (A. A. Alsheikh-Ali et al. PLoS ONE 6, e24357; 2011).
We also need to be open towards fellow citizens. The massive impact of science on our collective and individual lives has decreased the willingness of many to accept the pronouncements of scientists unless they can verify the strength of the underlying evidence for themselves. The furore surrounding ‘Climategate’ — rooted in the resistance of climate scientists to accede to requests from members of the public for data underlying some of the claims of climate science — was in part a motivation for the Royal Society’s current report. It is vital that science is not seen to hide behind closed laboratory doors, but engages seriously with the public.
Full editorial at Nature here: http://www.nature.com/news/open-your-minds-and-share-your-results-1.10895
Public Availability of Published Research Data in High-Impact Journals
There is increasing interest to make primary data from published research publicly available. We aimed to assess the current status of making research data available in highly-cited journals across the scientific literature.
Methods and Results
We reviewed the first 10 original research papers of 2009 published in the 50 original research journals with the highest impact factor. For each journal we documented the policies related to public availability and sharing of data. Of the 50 journals, 44 (88%) had a statement in their instructions to authors related to public availability and sharing of data. However, there was wide variation in journal requirements, ranging from requiring the sharing of all primary data related to the research to just including a statement in the published manuscript that data can be available on request. Of the 500 assessed papers, 149 (30%) were not subject to any data availability policy. Of the remaining 351 papers that were covered by some data availability policy, 208 papers (59%) did not fully adhere to the data availability instructions of the journals they were published in, most commonly (73%) by not publicly depositing microarray data. The other 143 papers that adhered to the data availability instructions did so by publicly depositing only the specific data type as required, making a statement of willingness to share, or actually sharing all the primary data. Overall, only 47 papers (9%) deposited full primary raw data online. None of the 149 papers not subject to data availability policies made their full primary data publicly available.
A substantial proportion of original research papers published in high-impact journals are either not subject to any data availability policies, or do not adhere to the data availability instructions in their respective journals. This empiric evaluation highlights opportunities for improvement.
h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard
- Royal Society urges era of open research data (blogs.nature.com)
- Open Knowledge Foundation: Opening up scientific data with CKAN (okfn.org)
- Published research should be free and open to all, says academic panel (independent.co.uk)
- Set science free from publishers’ paywalls (newscientist.com)
- Science ‘should be open to all’ (bbc.co.uk)
UPDATE: Steve McIntyre weighs in here