The BMC series biology journals have joined BMC Research Notes in encouraging all authors of original research-based articles to publish supporting data permanently online and include an ‘Availability of supporting data’ section in their articles. This includes journals such as BMC Bioinformatics, BMC Systems Biology, BMC Ecology and BMC Genomics.
Different journals and publishers have different approaches to data sharing. A recent feasibility study by JISC and the Research Information Network (and other partners) has the potential to produce a comprehensive Journal Research Data Policy Bank (JoRD) cataloguing these different policies. Meanwhile, non-comprehensively, some journals such as the BMJ require a data sharing statement from all authors. Others – including all BioMed Central journals as a minimum requirement – imply data sharing on request as a condition of submission or publication. While data sharing statements are a step in the right direction we’d ideally rather see evidence of data sharing in practice.
The ‘Availability of supporting data’ section aims to make it easier to identify articles with supporting data available, and enhance the literature. You can easily search for all published articles which include this section (although note that other journals and legacy content may also include datasets as additional files without using the section). Datasets available permanently online should also be cited in an article’s reference list, as well as being linked from the ‘Availability of supporting data’ section.
This policy change on the BMC series biology journals adds another 20 journals to those BioMed Central journals either encouraging or requiring all authors to permanently link their article to supporting data, or include their supporting data as additional files with their article. To show further evidence of the benefits of data sharing to scientific progress, reuse of published datasets is undoubtedly important. In July 2012, data collected on reuse of datasets deposited in Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) and discussed on Heather Piwowar’s blog suggests many public datasets are reused, not just an elite few. Hopefully the introduction of the ‘Availability of supporting data’ section on more journals should make it easier to find articles with supporting datasets available – both elite and non-elite – for reuse.