Springer Nature launches Open data badges pilot

Springer Nature has launched a pilot program in which digital Open data badges are being awarded to articles to incentivize and reward open data sharing practices amongst our authors.

Motivating authors to share their data

Researchers say that receiving more credit and recognition for their work motivates them to share their research data, and badges for open science have been shown to increase data sharing by authors in some journals. Springer Nature has recently launched a pilot to see if, after in-house editorial assessment, awarding qualifying articles open data badges will:

  • Affect levels of data sharing by authors
  • Affect reader engagement with articles and their supporting data, and perceptions of article quality
  • Help us understand the benefits and costs of consistently assessing and awarding open data badges for a Springer Nature journal

The pilot, on BMC Microbiology, will provide qualifying authors with a digital badge to recognize and reward their contribution towards open science practices. While the notion of digital badging is not new (visit the Center for Open Science’s (COS) website for more information about their badging program), this is Springer Nature’s first experiment with implementing Open data badges. We understand incentives are important for changing research culture and are curious to see if encouraging authors to engage in behaviors which promote data accessibility, reproducibility, and transparency in scientific research with these badges is effective.

We collaboratively developed a set of criteria in consultation with experts at COS that allows the Springer Nature Research Data Support team to assess every article in the journal and take a consistent and transparent approach to determining badge eligibility. This also allows the company to implement the badges in a way that fits within Springer Nature’s publication workflows and wider research data policies. This pilot also helps promote Springer Nature’s existing resources surrounding open data practices (such as our standard research data helpdesk and recommended repository list, Research Data Helpdesk and guidance on writing data availability statements.).

Criteria selection and workflow

For this pilot, the Research Data Support team is assessing accepted manuscripts for badge eligibility based on its compliance with the following criteria:

  • That a data availability statement is included with the manuscript, stating how the data can be accessed.
  • The dataset (or part of the dataset) is deposited in a public repository.
  • A DOI, Accession number, or another persistent identifier is supplied for the dataset.
  • The dataset provided is checked and confirmed as relevant to the related paper.
Example of a data availability statement.

Authors are notified of the pilot and badge criteria at submission, revision, and on the journal website where they are informed that all accepted manuscripts will be assessed for badge eligibility. Authors may then elect to comply with the criteria if they wish to have their article awarded a badge. If they don’t wish to be considered, they can simply disregard them (though they would still be expected to comply with the journal’s minimum requirements for data sharing). Once awarded, the article is given an Open data badge icon which links to the badgr platform where readers can see the evidence for the badge being awarded and link to the data (when possible).

Looking forward

The first badge was awarded in mid-September, with more being added each week.

Open data badge appears above article title and links out to badgr.com page.

If data from the pilot support earlier findings, we will assess if and how Open data badging can be more widely implemented across Springer Nature journals. As a proactive partner with the research community, Springer Nature intends to remain at the forefront of promoting openness and reproducibility in research and driving innovation.

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