The Future of Data Archiving

At the BES Annual Meeting 2015 in Edinburgh, a lively debate was held on the future of data archiving. The debate was recorded and the video can be viewed here.

The British Ecology Society (BES) has been mandating the archiving of data for all papers published in its journals since January 2014, so with the mandate having been in place for over 2 years this was a good opportunity to take stock of the impacts and look to the future. While it is recognised that data archiving presents both financial and time costs to researchers, the benefits of data preservation and validation of results help to advance science. The aim of the debate was to provide the opportunity for researchers to debate the pros and cons of data archiving in an open format.

To do this we invited panellists covering a range of perspectives including a publisher, active researchers, an editor, and data archive managers.

The panellists were:

Liz Ferguson – Publishing Solutions Director, Wiley, Dryad Board of Directors
Natalie Cooper – Researcher, Natural History Museum, London
Kathryn Harrison – Data Manager, Environmental Information Data Centre
James Pearce-Higgins – Science Director, British Trust for Ornithology
Mark Thorley – Head of Science Information, Natural Environment Research Council

The event was chaired by Chuck Fox, Functional Ecology Executive Editor and a member of the Dryad Board of Directors.

The debate covered five areas:

  1. What is data and what is data sharing?
  2. Considerations for effective data sharing
  3. Etiquette for using shared data
  4. Good data archiving practices
  5. The future of data arching

To kick-off the debate, Chuck summarised the history of the data archiving movement in ecology. Chuck discussed the longstanding practice of granting agencies and journals that either encourage or require data to be shared, and the long history of public archives available including Genbank (1982), TreeBASE (1994), NERC data centres and Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE). He then described the 2006 meetings at National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and explained how these meetings helped to formalize data archiving practices and were the foundation the Joint Data Archiving Policy (JDAP) which was adopted by a variety of ecology and evolution journals, including the BES journals, in 2011.

There was also a lively debate online during the workshop including the preregistration of trails, the moral responsibility around citizen science data and how do we avoid the risk of isolating data providers from users? Read the Storify of the Twitter conversation here.

Simon Hoggart
Assistant Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology

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