Data archiving at The Holocene: policy and practice

When I read a recent paper in The Holocene,  I wondered, the way one does, if the data were available, and turned to The Holocene’s submission guidelines.

SAGE [the publisher] acknowledges the importance of research data availability as an integral part of the research and verification process for academic journal articles.

The Holocene requests all authors submitting any primary data used in their research articles if the articles are accepted to be published in the online version of the journal, or provide detailed information in their articles on how the data can be obtained. This information should include links to third-party data repositories or detailed contact information for third-party data sources. Data available only on an author-maintained website will need to be loaded onto either the journal’s platform or a third-party platform to ensure continuing accessibility. Examples of data types include but are not limited to statistical data files, replication code, text files, audio files, images, videos, appendices, and additional charts and graphs necessary to understand the original research. The editor can also grant exceptions for data that cannot legally or ethically be released. All data submitted should comply with Institutional or Ethical Review Board requirements and applicable government regulations. For further information, please contact the editorial office.

The policy is not as strong as I would like – it requests rather than requires – and the first sentence of the main paragraph is difficult to parse. What is missing is a requirement for a data availability statement. Nature announced yesterday that this will be required in their journals.

But how well is the data archiving mandate followed? I’m going to look at the latest issue of The Holocene, and see if data has been archived for the papers. Note, I don’t know when this policy came into force so this test of compliance might be unfair if papers were submitted before the policy was announced.

The issue contains twelve research papers: one paper has most of the data in tables within the paper; four have supplementary online material; none link to third-party (e.g., figshare or datadryad), institutional or personal data repositories.

Unfortunately none of the supplementary online material are currently online (8th September). This is a tiny bit hopeless as the papers have been online since April. It would be so cunning to publish the supplementary material at the same time as the paper, ideally with a link from the PDF.

The absence of the supplemental material means that I cannot tell if they archive data or not. Even being optimistic about their contents, there is less than 50% compliance with the data archiving mandate.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Journal of Ecology had a 93% data archiving compliance rate in 2015.






About richard telford

Ecologist with interests in quantitative methods and palaeoenvironments
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