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Making a statement about data availability

Researchers | Data sharing
Making a statement about data availability

All Hindawi journals now require a data availability statement to be provided at the point of submission for all new research articles and clinical studies. This is a part of Hindawi’s drive for greater data sharing, and a significant step towards a comprehensive Open Data policy.

Back in February we announced our intention to require authors to provide a data availability statement with newly submitted manuscripts. We’re both happy and proud to say that this is now our formal policy, and that a such a statement is mandatory for all new research articles and clinical studies submitted to Hindawi titles.

Much has happened since our original announcement at the beginning of the year, including one of us (Catriona) joining Hindawi as the Director of Open Science. Over that period we’ve taken time to listen to the concerns raised by the communities that Hindawi serves, learnt from the experiences of others through engaging with other forward thinking stakeholders (such as contributing to a report on data publishing by the Belmont Forum and most recently as a participant in a workshop hosted by the AGU on enabling FAIR Data), and mapped a strategy to support data sharing while being sensitive to the needs of those for whom data sharing is not yet an established practice.

Our aim at Hindawi is to foster an open access approach to all research outputs (including data and code as well as articles), while ensuring that appropriate attribution is given to those who invest time, thought and funds into their creation. This is part of our longer-term strategy, outlined in a blog post by Paul Peters, to help build the open infrastructure required to make those outputs discoverable and reusable.

...as open as possible, as closed as necessary...

We therefore firmly support and endorse the FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. These four principles guide the implementation of practices around data management, that of Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability. The focus is on stewardship, reuse and discovery rather than openness per se, but we believe that ensuring that the data underlying the findings of a paper are publicly available wherever possible — as open as possible, as closed as necessary — will also help ensure that the work outlined in an article can potentially be replicated. This increases both the utility of the work and its reliability.

We ran a small survey of some of our authors earlier this year, which included asking them for their views on data sharing. More than 90% of respondents said they would be willing to make the data underlying the findings of their paper publicly available, even though Hindawi publishes a diverse portfolio of journals covering engineering, maths, the life sciences and clinical research, among others. We are very aware of different cultural practices among disciplines where the norms of data sharing, and what is acceptable for the community, vary substantially. Moreover, in many jurisdictions governmental and institutional policies are not yet in place to support making data openly available. Scarce, but of equal importance, is any firm commitment by funders or institutions to actively reward researchers for creating, curating, or sharing their data — whether it be through additional funds in their grant, or as part of the evaluation system. At Hindawi, we are working with other stakeholders — notably as a partner in a new EU funded project called FREYA — which will include exploring workflows to link articles to the relevant public datasets (e.g., via Scholix) or software code in repositories, and examine options for providing credit by ensuring that citations to (e.g. third-party datasets) are made available as part of the reference list. Giving datasets or code the same kudos and status as articles within scholarly communication is a fundamental part of open science. We are at the beginning of this work and our hope is that we will be able to do this in a way that robustly integrates articles with the relevant datasets, but also reduces the administrative burden on researchers, institutions and funders as much as possible.

The data availability statements in articles in our journals will be published under their own heading ‘Data Availability’ and be positioned immediately after the conclusions. This will provide authors with a dedicated place to identify the types of data associated with their paper, and give readers clarity on where to find it. To the extent currently possible, these statements will also be machine readable.

We are asking authors to include a data availability statement in their submitted manuscripts, but if not they will be prompted to enter one during the submission process. While the actual statement is only mandatory for research articles and clinical trials, authors may optionally include a statement for other article types as well.

We want to work with the research community, including our authors, editors and reviewers, to make this policy as effective and burden free as possible.

At this stage, we will allow authors to state that the data are available on request and mention who should be contacted if so. This is not ideal, and we appreciate that the policy is weaker than, for example, those introduced by PLOS, eLife and the Royal Society, where making the data underlying the findings of a paper openly available is mandatory. Our aim, given our diverse portfolio and global spread of authors, is to be both pragmatic and evidence based. We will monitor the impact of just mandating a statement of data availability. Next year, we will assess the consequences of our policy and start to phase in a more rigorous approach to data sharing across different fields as appropriate. We want to work with the research community, including our authors, editors and reviewers, to make this policy as effective and burden free as possible. This also requires appropriate support from research institutions and funders. Fortunately, there are progressive funders, Governments and research organisations from many jurisdictions now taking a lead, such as the Wellcome Trust, the European Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan, and the National Earth System Science Data Sharing Infrastructure in China (a recent article by Sharif et al. provides a survey of data policies with a particular focus on Asia).

Our data policy is a part of our drive for greater sharing, discoverability and reuse of all research outputs and, while a significant step, is only a small part of a more comprehensive Open Science policy that Hindawi will look to implement in the coming year. You can see our latest data policy here.

This blog post was co-written by Catriona MacCallum and Thomas Faust. The text and images in this blog post are by Hindawi and are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY).

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