Countdown to the “Data Oscars”

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At JISC’s September 2011 Research Integrity Conference, at which BioMed Central presented, there was much support for the seemingly novel concept of setting up a “Data Oscars”. It was one of a number of ideas to better incentivize data sharing (the problem of, “why should scientists share data if they don’t get any credit for it?”).

Many people are motivated by prizes, scientists included. And, although an award for sharing data is far from a universal solution to data sharing’s credit problem, it’s a step in the right direction. But giving prizes for “data sharing done well” is not a new idea. BioMed Central’s annual Open Data Award is now in its third year. Furthermore, there are still a few days left to submit your nomination before the judging panel meet to compile the shortlist.

I’m pleased to be on the judging panel for a third successive year with authors of the Panton Principles Cameron Neylon, Peter Murray-Rust, Rufus Pollock and John Wilbanks. In 2012 we are joined by Earl Beutler, CEO of LabArchives, a company which provides online laboratory notebook software for sharing and publishing data, and are this year sponsoring the award.

The criteria for the Open Data Award are:
Data sharing, its preservation and re-use, is an increasingly important part of scientific research and the publication process but there are many challenges associated with openly sharing scientific data, particularly when sharing goes against cultural or community norms. We recognize researchers who have published in BioMed Central journals and have demonstrated leadership in the sharing, standardization, publication, or re-use of biomedical research data.

Articles published in Chemistry Central and BioMed Central journals are eligible for the award.

Many articles making the shortlist in previous years have tended to be original research which have included as additional files, or deposited in a repository or database, all the data supporting their findings. Particularly relevant are types of experimental data or scientific fields where data sharing and publishing is less common, such as clinical medicine. But that should not exclude significant advances made in fields where data sharing is more established, such as genomics. Published data which are of good quality – well labeled, understandable, conforming to agreed standards of reporting, and in accessible file formats – have also been highly regarded. High-profile open data and data sharing policy papers, and descriptions of data sharing tools, have received honourable mentions too.

Past winners – for information and inspiration

2010 (awarded in May 2011):
Tommi Nyman, University of Eastern Finland, Finland
How common is ecological speciation in plant-feeding insects? A ‘Higher’ Nematinae perspective
BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:266 (1 September 2010)

Former Open Data judge Alex Wade (Director of Scholarly Communications at Microsoft) said:
Dr. Nyman and his colleagues published three additional data files with their article:
•        The collection data for their specimens and taxonomic and ecological background information
•        The sequence data used in phylogeny reconstruction and resultant phylogenetic trees
•        The data file and run parameters for Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis Sampling Trees (BEAST)

The data are well labeled and readily understandable by other scientists; moreover, the authors showed great transparency in their work, particularly in their first additional data file, which fully documents how they sampled their insects. This level of openness is not commonly seen and it demonstrates real leadership. Their article serves as an outstanding example of how evolutionary biology research should be presented and the data published to enable other scientists to validate and build on the work.”

2009 (awarded in June 2010):
Dr Yoosook Lee, Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis
Ecological
and genetic relationships of the Forest-M form among chromosomal and
molecular forms of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto

Yoosook Lee, Anthony J Cornel, Claudio R Meneses, Abdrahamane
Fofana, Aurélie G Andrianarivo, Rory D McAbee, Etienne Fondjo, Sekou F
Traoré and Gregory C Lanzaro
Malaria Journal 2009, 8:75 (21 April 2009)

Open Data judge Cameron Neylon said on his blog: “The winning paper got everyone’s attention right from the beginning as it came from an area of science not necessarily known for widespread data publication. It simply provided all of the pieces of information, almost without comment, in the form of clearly set out tables. They are in Excel and there are some issues with formatting and presentation, multiple sheets, inconsistent tabulation. It would have been nice to see more of the analysis code used as well. But what appealed most was that the data were simply provided above and beyond what appeared in the main figures as a natural part of the presentation and that the data were in a form that could be used beyond the specific study.”

Please get in touch with your nominations in the next seven days for them to be considered for this year’s shortlist.