Why archive my data?

Why do the British Ecological Society journals require me to archive my data?

At the BES, along with many other ecology journals, we require that all data (and code for theortical papers) associated with published papers are archived in an appropriate public repository. We do this because we believe data are important products of scientific enterprise, and they should be preserved and usable in the future. By making datasets and code publicly available they become discoverable, freely reusable, and citable by other researchers.

Datasets are an important part of your digital presence (your discoverability online – don’t forget your ORCID ID). Making your datasets available can:

  • Increase citations of your work
  • Enable connections with possible collaborators
  • Improve open science practices
  • Enable connections to researchers in other fields
  • Facilitate researchers carrying out background or literature reviews on the topic of your work

The Dryad Digital Repository is integrated with the BES journals and this offers a smooth and easy process for authors when archiving their data, plus, the costs of archiving are covered by the British Ecological Society. Data stored in Dryad can be re-used in many different ways, such as exploring new methodologies, re-purposing data for new research questions unanticipated by the original authors, performing synthetic studies such as formal meta-analyses, or even as teaching resources. Many of the datasets associated with BES journals have been downloaded hundreds of times.

What our authors say

I contacted some of the authors of these datasets to find out what they thought about sharing their data in Dryad. I’m happy to say that everybody contacted was pleased that their datasets were well used and all were positive about sharing their data. Many authors pointed to the new collaborations they made as a result of sharing data, for example Kazuharu Ohashi, author of a paper in Functional Ecology said they were invited to take part in an upcoming Special Feature.

Mario Moura, author of a recent paper in Journal of Animal Ecology said, “Sharing the code definitely helped in getting the manuscript cited … and the code has been re-used by researchers from very different fields”.

Jesse Whittington, an author of a recent paper in Journal of Applied Ecology said, “Publishing the paper and data has led to additional collaborations … other researchers have contacted me to assist with their population modelling. One of those studies will soon submit their paper for publication”.

If you use it, cite it

Best practice for archiving and reusing data is still developing, and not always followed. Mario Moura raises the important point that “people do not cite the code…they just cite the manuscript”. We encourage all authors when using code or data from other researchers to cite both the code/data and the paper.

As a result of data archiving, authors have reported that their data has gone on to be used in meta-analysis which is a great example of addressing new questions with published data. However, in published meta-analysis the papers/data sets used for the bases of the meta-analysis, aren’t cited in the main body of the paper meaning the author does not get credit for it use. For meta-analyses published in BES journals we encourage authors to cite the data sources in the main text of the manuscript. This ensures that these references are fully indexed, and their authors are given proper citation credit. We hope that other publishers will follow in encouraging this.

I hope this blog post has persuaded you to make the most of data that you have archived. And remember, if you use data that has been published, cite it!

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