Let’s push things forward

We at Molecular Ecology think archiving data at publication is really important, chiefly because it means that all these amazing datasets are preserved for future generations of researchers. Who knows what questions they’ll be asking fifty years from now? (That, and not archiving data alongside a paper makes about as much sense as not including the figures.)

Anyway, while our archiving policy has been settling in, we here in the office have been helping authors to get all the data underlying their results onto the relevant archive (Genbank, SRA, Dryad etc). This is quite hard work, as someone here has to go through every paper and work out which datasets were used and whether they’re already available somewhere else (e.g. in the supp. mat.).

We’re therefore switching to a different system: the people that actually know exactly which data are in the paper (the authors) include a draft* Data Accessibility statement at initial submission, and the people best placed to judge whether it’s adequate (the reviewers) are asked to check it over. The office then makes sure that any deficiencies identified by the reviewers are dealt with by the time the paper goes to be typeset.

There are quite a few advantages to doing it this way. First, everyone submitting to Mol Ecol will need to think about which datasets they need to archive, and then list them in the DA section of the manuscript. This will shift archiving from being an afterthought at publication to a more central component of manuscript preparation. Second, even if the paper doesn’t make it into Mol Ecol, the presence of a DA statement should make archiving the data easier wherever the paper does get accepted. Third, including evaluation of the DA statement in the review process should eventually establish community consensus about which data should be public for a particular analysis. This consensus should also able to keep up with methods and storage technology as they change through time.

This new approach has just been set up in the system, and I expect that it will take a few weeks before papers with DA sections at initial submission are being sent to reviewers. In the meantime, I’m interested to hear your feedback- have you found archived data useful? Have you archived data and had a good or bad experience?

To show that Jeremy isn’t the only one who can add tangentially relevant videos to posts, I’ll end with some vintage UK hip-hop:

  • i.e. without accession numbers or DOI’s
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About Tim Vines

I'm the managing editor of Molecular Ecology and Molecular Ecology Resources.
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