Value, metrics and action in publishing data

The funding community and other proponents of Open Science and Open Data have been trying to persuade the mainstream research community to publish their data for some time with only partial success [1].

A key problem is that, although the arguments for doing so are logical – research becomes more reproducible, data can be cited and re-used, opportunities for cross-domain cooperation are increased, and so forth – concrete underlying evidence has until recently been in quite short supply, with a resulting lack of engagement from the wider research community.

It’s been possible to argue for a while that linking an open dataset to a primary publication is correlated with increased citation rates (of up to 30%) [2]. But this still doesn’t draw attention to the dataset itself. Researchers are busy and need to optimise their behaviour towards activities that will drive their research field, departments, institutions and personal career progress and to date the proactive management, deposition and publication of their data has often simply not been a logical priority.

With Giving Researchers Credit for their Data we’re hoping to lower the barrier to action by automating and simplifying the process of submitting data papers to journals. The carrot of having a publishable, citable product at the end of the process is also part of the value proposition. And the proposition itself has been strengthened in recent weeks by the news of the data journal Earth System Science Data’s high citation rates. ESSD has been assigned an Impact Factor over 8, leapfrogging its primary research competitor titles to achieve a ranking of 2nd in Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences, and 3rd in Geosciences, Multidisciplinary.

Whilst it can rightly be argued that the Impact Factor is a blunt instrument at best with which to measure the value of individual articles, this announcement does imply that researchers use and credit data papers in their work at levels comparable to, or exceeding, many traditional research articles (at least in Geosciences). Perhaps this development will lead to ‘write my data paper’ making its way on to the standard academic To Do list.

And that is certainly worth celebrating!

-Neil Jefferies (PI for Giving Researchers Credit for Their Data)


Giving Researchers Credit for their Data, funded as part of the Jisc Data Spring Initiative, aims to provide a button that can be added to a DataCite compliant data repository which largely automates the process of data paper submission for an authenticated researcher. The project uses a cloud-based app and SWORD2-based APIs to link with multiple repositories and publishers, taking advantage of existing DataCite and ORCID metadata so that a paper can be automatically inserted into a publisher’s submission system without requiring any data re-entry by the author.

[1] Aleixandre-Benavent, R et al. Scientometrics (2016) 107: 1. doi:10.1007/s11192-016-1868-7
[2] Piwowar HA, Vision TJ. (2013) Data reuse and the open data citation advantage. PeerJ 1:e175 This analysis specifically concentrated on micro-array data.

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