BMC Research Notes – adding value to your data


Support for scientific data sharing is gathering more and more support in 2010, so rather than “why share data?” the question now is “how?”. Making data available in readily interpretable formats is vital to realising its value in driving new knowledge discovery, and BMC Research Notes today launches a new initiative aimed at promoting best practice in sharing and publishing data, with a focus on standardized, re-useable formats.

Across biology and medicine new data standards are emerging or are already in use, but many may not be enforced by journals or funding agencies, or benefit from established, structured databases for data deposition, such as ArrayExpress for microarray data. Adding value to data has always been at the core of  BMC Research Notes’ strategy and the journal aims to produce guidance for authors on domain-specific data standards, to complement our figure preparation guidelines. But as the scientific community itself is best placed to advise on the most appropriate formats for data, the journal has opened this project up to the scientific community and is asking researchers and data managers for their contributions.

Integral to these educational Data Notes will be the inclusion of an example dataset as an additional file, or link to a permanently-available dataset, which can serve as a reference example. Readily re-usable data from a cancer cohort is also published in BMC Research Notes today in the article by Vickers and Cronin, which accompanies the editorial that outlines the goals of this data-driven collection.

Indeed, the future of scholarly communication and research increasingly depends on a commitment to data. Just yesterday in JAMA a commentary on the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Open Government strategy discussed the benefits to science  – and the economy – of public-use health data sets that maintain privacy. It further called for data to “be released in standardized formats, without intellectual property constraints.”

“Data is the underlying foundation of our science and it is crucial for both replicating results as well as building on them that we work harder at making data more effectively available and useable. It is great to see a pioneer of the Open Access literature like BMC providing leadership on the issue of making data openly available and providing the tools that will enable researchers to improve on current practice,” said Dr Cameron Neylon co-author of the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science.

BioMed Central is waiving the article processing charge for contributions to this special collection of articles, which also extends to contributions on broader aspects of scientific data sharing, archiving, and open data. Contact the BMC Research Notes editorial team for more information or, if you are at tomorrow’s Science Online London, come and talk to us at the session on ‘Publishing primary research data’. 

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christophe roos

Unfortunately, the commentary on the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Open Government strategy that discussed the benefits to science – and the economy – of public-use health data sets that maintain privacy remains hidden by JAMA restricted access… Still some doors to open.

iain hrynaszkiewicz

Thanks for your comment. With this initiative we are asking the scientific
community to *tell us* what the appropriate, re-usable data formats are for their domains, and so are not explicitly specifying the data or file types
described (although we plan to catalogue this information in the future). By a
data standard we mean a widely-agreed way of recording/defining and presenting
data. We used the example of the MAGE-TAB format in the editorial; another example might be GelML in proteomics. We are considering contributions on data
standards and metadata standards, and broader, more general issues relating to
scientific data sharing and open data. Key issues are that published data, if
provided with the article, are available and openly-reusable. If your group are
interested in proposing an article please get in touch by email,

You may also be interested to read our draft open data statement:

Best regards,


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