Access to research results, immediately and without restriction, has always been at the heart of PLOS’ mission and the wider Open Access movement. However, without similar access to the data underlying the findings, the article can be of limited use. For this reason, PLOS has always required that authors make their data available to other academic researchers who wish to replicate, reanalyze, or build upon the findings published in our journals.
In an effort to increase access to this data, we are now revising our data-sharing policy for all PLOS journals: authors must make all data publicly available, without restriction, immediately upon publication of the article. Beginning March 3rd, 2014, all authors who submit to a PLOS journal will be asked to provide a Data Availability Statement, describing where and how others can access each dataset that underlies the findings. This Data Availability Statement will be published on the first page of each article.
What do we mean by data?
“Data are any and all of the digital materials that are collected and analyzed in the pursuit of scientific advances.” Examples could include spreadsheets of original measurements (of cells, of fluorescent intensity, of respiratory volume), large datasets such as
next-generation sequence reads, verbatim responses from qualitative studies, software code, or even image files used to create figures. Data should be in the form in which it was originally collected, before summarizing, analyzing or reporting.
What do we mean by publicly available?
All data must be in one of three places:
- the body of the manuscript; this may be appropriate for studies where the dataset is small enough to be presented in a table
- in the supporting information; this may be appropriate for moderately-sized datasets that can be reported in large tables or as compressed files, which can then be downloaded
- in a stable, public repository that provides an accession number or digital object identifier (DOI) for each dataset; there are many repositories that specialize in specific data types, and these are particularly suitable for very large datasets
Do we allow any exceptions?
Yes, but only in specific cases. We are aware that it is not ethical to make all datasets fully public, including private patient data, or specific information relating to endangered species. Some authors also obtain data from third parties and therefore do not have the right to make that dataset publicly available. In such cases, authors must state that “Data is available upon request”, and identify the person, group or committee to whom requests should be submitted. The authors themselves should not be the only point of contact for requesting data.
Where can I go for more information?
The revised data sharing policy, along with more information about the issues associated with public availability of data, can be reviewed in full at:
Image: Open Data stickers by Jonathan Gray