Join the data debate: draft position statement on open data


BioMed Central supports the goals of the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science but putting them into practice needs to be done in careful consultation with the scientific community to ensure that researchers still receive appropriate credit for their contributions.

Rather than restricting access to data through restrictive licensing terms, cultural norms need to be defined for the assignment of credit, priority with respect to initial publication and the determination of reasonable embargo periods. Fields such as astronomy, economics and genomics have already made significant progress in this direction.

BioMed Central has drafted a position statement on data sharing, open data and licensing, and we invite the wider scientific community to join the discussion to help us define an explicit open data licensing policy going forwards.

The statement discusses what we see as “the Five Ws” for open data, which includes a proposal that, from a specific date, any author submitting to a BioMed Central journal would agree to dedicate the data elements of their article and supplementary material to the public domain and apply an open data conformant licence, such as Creative Commons CC0.

We invite the scientific and publishing community to join us in defining the optimum way to put the Panton Principles into practice. Comment publicly on the draft statement by using the comment function on this blog. Alternatively, contact us to get involved.

BioMed Central will also be discussing these issues as part of  the panel discussion on Publishing primary research data at Science Online London on 3rd September 2010.

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Ah, great stuff. We’re thinking of talking about Panton in an upcoming editorial–I’m hoping to drop in and see PMR in Cambridge at some point, and this, obviously, is right up his street.

gustav nilsonne

For the sake of both authors, readers, and patients, publishing practices urgently need to improve, particularly with regard to data from clinical studies.

We have recently attempted to perform a diagnostic meta-analysis, and found that most of the relevant papers reported only frequency distributions. Some papers reported individual patient data in scatterplots, from which we attempted to derive the original datasets by a computer-aided method. To our surprise, nearly half the papers showed a different number of data points compared to the stated number of included patients. As a result, we were unable to aggregate the data.

The existing option to publish the full dataset as a supplementary file should be used more often, and we need a cultural shift in this direction among clinical scientists. Biomed Central deserves credit for taking the lead in this debate.

Gustav Nilsonne, MD, PhD
Postdoc, Karolinska Institutet

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