Fishy fossils and lemur survival: cases studies in data curation

Following the introduction of our Data Support Services pilot we are seeing the first publications at Springer Nature where authors have opted, during manuscript submission and peer review, to take advantage of the publisher’s help in making their data more discoverable. This week these first publications will be published in Nature, and BMC Ecology, with their supporting data being made openly available and accessible through the Springer Nature portal on Figshare.

The research published in Nature represents a significant advance in our understanding of fish evolution; and the research in BMC Ecology provides evidence for the influence of hormones on survival rates of primates.

These two articles highlight the diverse needs of data publishing and curation support, from multi-gigabyte computed tomography (CT) images, in the Nature article, to Excel spreadsheets for Dr Josué Hasina Rakotoniaina’s experiments involving mouse lemurs.

For researchers that opt to use the Data Support Services, Research Data Editors will carry out a range of checks and enhancements on their metadata (information that helps discovery and interpretation of the files) and the structure and presentation of their datasets. The Data Support Services are also able to support a range wide of file types and sizes of data.

By using the Data Support Services the data supporting these articles now include:

  • Links to associated, peer-reviewed publication(s) – connecting data directly to other outputs
  • A persistent identifier (DOI) for the data – enhancing accessibility
  • Clear citation information – enabling proper accreditation
  • Files that are preview-able in browser – improving accessibility
  • Consistent metadata and contextual information for each file – increasing discoverability
  • Clear license/terms of use – ensuring correct usage

The publication of these datasets was also managed for the authors, ensuring a coordinated release of data and article, including persistent bidirectional linking between data and article (which one study has found to be associated with increased citations).

As Figshare, our partner repository for the pilot of the Data Support Services, supports the preview of numerous files our Research Data Editor unzipped Dr Giles’ fish fossil CT image files and uploaded them individually, enabling in-browser previewing of these rotating 3D images.

To enhance discoverability and to allow granular search of the data, categories from the Australian Fields of Research classification system and relevant keywords were added to the metadata for the BMC Ecology article.

The data curation actions taken by the Research Data Editors are important for ensuring longer term preservation, discoverability and reuse of data. These can be overlooked when historically research communication and impact assessment has focused on papers over data, code and other equally important outputs. Data curation is vital to enable data preservation and reuse but can be under-valued and under-resourced in research funding, assessment and publishing.

To find out if Springer Nature can help make your data more discoverable please use this form or email researchdata@springernature.com.

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