Guest blog post by Sam Burridge, Managing Director for Open Research at Nature Publishing Group.
It’s been a busy few weeks for the open access team at Nature Publishing Group. In China, we announced the launch of a new Microsystems & Nanoengineering journal with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. A study published in Scientific Reports on the potential for nanoparticles being used for invisible barcodes has caught the attention of the media. And last, but by no means least, we launched the first content for Scientific Data.
Scientific Data aims to address the increasing need to make research data more available, citable, discoverable, interpretable, reusable and reproducible. It is an online-only, peer-reviewed publication for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets called Data Descriptors.
Data Descriptors are a new category of publication designed to provide detailed descriptions of experimental, observational, computational or curated data. They integrate a narrative component with structured, curated information to maximize interpretation, search and reuse of the underlying primary datasets, presenting information on the genesis of the datasets and the experimental steps used to derive them, and linking to the resulting data files.
Data Descriptors are designed to provide a ‘missing link’ between the original dataset and the article of record.
For example, the first content published by Scientific Data includes the Data Descriptor for a citizen science project by the Reef Life Survey chronicling global reef fish communities. The data for this project is available to the public on Figshare and through the Reef Life Survey website, and the findings have been published in Nature.
Academics regularly tell us that although their funders encourage data sharing, and are putting data-management planning requirements in place, they struggle to fulfil these – especially when they don’t get any particular credit for doing so. Publication of a Data Descriptor in Scientific Data helps authors fulfil a significant portion of funder-required data-management plans, while also providing demonstrable outputs. Scientific Data will also help authors use and meet community standards, where possible.
We’re very pleased with its progress so far. Just one week on, one Data Descriptor – on global drought monitoring systems – has seen well over 1,000 page views, 6,000 since the descriptor was first published online back on March 11th.
But we do know there is more the scholarly community, including publishers, can do to encourage data sharing, and more we can do as publishers to help. Prior to launching Scientific Data, we interviewed our editorial board members on the data issues that matter to them and their colleagues – from reuse of data, to discoverability, quality, preservation and how we encourage open data. They give a fascinating insight into the issues scientists deal with every day, in a variety of disciplines. The interviews can be read here, and more will be uploaded over the coming months.
We’re suggesting that we make this summer the Summer of Data, and start a real conversation about how we can improve open data. If you’d like to take part, leave a comment below letting us know your views, or join in on social media using #summerofdata.