The new year is here, and one of the biggest changes it will bring is the implementation of the Joint Data Archiving Policy by a number of ecology and evolution journals. These include Molecular Ecology (and ME Resources), Evolution, American Naturalist, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Applications and Heredity. The BMC journals have also drafted a policy, and the Royal Society journals have something similar. The adoption of these policies means that only three of the journals in ISI’s ‘evolutionary biology’ field with an Impact Factor over 4 (MBE, Cladistics and Syst Biol) will not be actively requiring the archiving of the data upon which the paper is based.
This is a bold move: not everyone is keen on letting everyone else see the data underlying their papers, and naturally there will be some authors who will submit their work elsewhere to avoid these requirements. However, there is a strong belief at these journals and in the broader community that this is the right thing to do- thousands of datasets are being lost to future researchers every year, and hence concerted action is required to save this invaluable resource for both the short and the long term.
Mike Whitlock has penned a great piece about the JDAP and data archiving for TREE that I hope everyone will read, as it lays out the expectations for both the owners of the data (i.e. the authors) and its subsequent users.
One of the biggest concerns I’ve encountered so far is that other scientists will take openly available data and scoop the original authors on a paper that they were intending to write themselves. It’s clear that this will happen sometimes, but I am hopeful that it will actually be very rare. The vast majority of researchers are responsible and careful individuals and there will likely be a significant social stigma against this sort of behaviour. Furthermore, journals that receive these scoop submissions will typically ask the original authors for a review, such that the editor will also be able to decide whether the new authors have made fair use of the data.