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Introducing Scientific Data Updates

Today, Nature Publishing Group formally announced its new data publication, Scientific Data.  This publication platform is currently under development, and we hope to release our first call for submissions this fall and begin publishing content in the spring of 2014.

Scientific Data Updates, our blog, will host news and information about Scientific Data as we lead up to launch.  Bookmark this page, sign-up for e-alerts, or follow us on your favourite social media channel so that you will not miss any important announcements.

In my role as the Managing Editor, I will be engaging with the scientific community over the coming months as we develop our editorial thresholds, data standards, and formatting requirements.  I will periodically post digests of these discussions here on our blog.

In my opinion, data release is not just a binary proposition.  Is it actually reusable?  It is reproducible? Can scientists find the data they want? What is the quality of the data?  Indeed, blocks of numbers, by themselves, have little reuse value; it is the contextualizing information that actually makes data reusable.  For datasets that are publicly released, this key information – including detailed experimental descriptions, standardized meta-annotation, file descriptions, and technical validation experiments – might currently be scattered between various data repository systems and supplementary materials sections, or more often are simply not present at all.

There is a clear need for better ways to promote the release of data in the most reusable manner, and to give credit to authors who invest this additional effort in providing useful and complete data descriptions.

Scientific Data is designed to help address these challenges by providing a venue for researchers to publish detailed descriptions of datasets, supported by a focused peer-review process that specifically evaluates dataset descriptions and reuse value. This publication platform is designed to be complementary to both traditional journal articles and community data repositories.  In this sense Scientific Data occupies a new position in the scientific publishing world, and as Managing Editor my role will be to define this new position and work actively with other journals and repositories to ensure mutually beneficial interactions.

For repositories, we will work to promote data deposition standards established by the community, and our peer-review process will actively ensure that data is deposited in an appropriate repository.  In addition, our publication platform will offer higher-level search and discovery functionality so that scientists can discover relevant datasets regardless of where the data are actually deposited.

There is strong support for these ideas within the Nature Publishing Group.  This may seem surprising, since editors are notoriously cautious about any new publications that could siphon off all important citations.  But, there is a growing realization among editors that articles associated with openly released and reusable data are more read and cited (see for example Piwowar et al, 2007).  If the Data Descriptors published by Scientific Data make datasets more reusable – and we believe they will – then everyone will benefit.

Please return to our website and this blog over the coming months to find out more about how Scientific Data is developing.

Andrew L. Hufton

Managing Editor, Scientific Data


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