Ecological Applications mandates data sharing

ECAP Jan full cover snapshotFrom 2014 onward, the editors of ESA’s journal Ecological Applications will require authors to make their data publicly available. Authors must deposit data that they discuss in the results of their research reports in a permanent, publicly accessible data archive or repository before publication of the manuscript.

ESA recognizes the need to protect the privacy of human subjects and the locations of rare, threatened, or endangered species. Editors will work with authors to appropriately redact sensitive information.

Read the data policy for Ecological Applications here.

Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB)Archiving of data prior to research publication allows the journal to permanently link the data and the paper. Repositories such as Dryad, Ecological Archives, and the University of Illinois’ IDEALS assign Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) or other unique identifiers to deposited datasets. Secondary users of the data can (and should) cite the original paper and the dataset itself.

DryadESA expects authors in all ESA journals to share data fundamental to their research articles, and encourages deposition in public archives. A 2004 summit (pdf) convened by ESA of ecological, evolutionary and organismal biology societies concluded that sponsoring data access through archives was in the best interest of science and society, citing the benefits of reinterpretation of data, smoothing cross-discipline collaborations, and enhancement of existing datasets. But, prior to 2014, only Ecological Monographs mandated public data deposition.

LTER data co-opThe editorial board of Ecological Applications discussed data sharing requirements intensively for three years before instituting the policy change, considering the demand for the creation of large, synthetic datasets from small, detailed studies (for Big Ecology projects like those in the February Macrosystems Ecology special issue of ESA Frontiers), and the public interest in replication and adaptation of results. Repositories also, they felt, had the potential to help the data collectors gain recognition for their work.

In an editorial in the January issue, Editor-in-Chief David Schimel, Managing Editor David Baldwin, and Publications Coordinator Anne Marie Whelan commented on changing cultural expectations in the ecological community for availability of data, particularly when results weigh on policy decisions. They defined three areas of concern for data described in Applications papers:

  • Replication. Since many studies and experiments conducted in the field cannot be experimentally replicated (because of, e.g., contingent effects of weather, subsequent unavailability of the study site, or cost), primary data are required to replicate calculations and analyses.

  • Transparency. Managers or decision makers using published information often require a high degree of transparency to ensure the credibility of their decision and increasingly need to share all relevant information (including data) with all parties.

  • Re-use. Ecologists tackling problems of large spatial areas or taxonomic generality often build large data sets from multiple studies, by data set synthesis or meta-analysis and often require access to raw data to ensure consistent processing.

Read the full text of the editorial here.

Data may be deposited in ESA’s Ecological Archives, free of charge, when submitted for review as a single package with the manuscript. Authors may choose to use other established data repositories after their manuscripts are accepted for publication.

DataONEThe Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) has resources to help investigators apply appropriate metadata and manage data with the expectation of public deposition. We welcome suggestions of more tools and resources in the comments.

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