Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eli Writes

Eli has, from time to time, traced the changing data sharing standards at Nature. These changes started soon after Philip Campbell became editor, thus, he recently, well ok, recently as in the past decade if decades start with the first year, took keyboard in hand and wrote: (some names and emails have been edited to protect the not so innocent and the innocent. YMMV)

Sent: 19 November 2010 16:01
To: Nature@nature.com
Subject: Changing data sharing standards

This is addressed to Phllip Campbell, Editor in Chief


I am interested in the evolving data sharing standard for Nature, the motivation for the changes and the general experience editors and authors have had. Is there a published summary of this. There have been significant changes over the years, ranging from the early 90s

Nature requests authors to deposit sequence and x-ray crystallography
data in the databases that exist for this purpose.

To a major change shortly after you became Editor in Chief

As a condition of publication authors are required to make materials and methods used freely available to academic researchers for their own use.

To the current standard

Therefore, a condition of publication in a Nature journal is that authors are required to make materials, data and associated protocols promptly available to readers without undue qualifications in material transfer agreements.

I am also interested in whether Nature considers algorithmic descriptions of protocols sufficient, or, as in the case of software, a complete delivery.

Thank you for your consideration, I remain

Very truly yours,
Eli Rabett
and received this reply. Pay particular attention to the last two paragraphs, which, as it were, are relevant to a number of well known whines (well you didn't think this post was going to be ALL nicey nicey?)

From: "Campbell, Philip"
Date: December 23, 2010 6:35:15 AM EST
Subject: RE: Changing data sharing standards

I am sorry that it has taken so long to reply to your e-mail. There is no published summary of the history of our policies about sharing data.

During my time as Editor-in-Chief we have consistently promoted the maximal sharing of data and materials associated with papers in Nature and all other Nature journals (the journals generally have common policies).

My own first initiative was to invite Floyd Bloom, then Editor-in-Chief in Science, to undertake a common change of policy insisting that all reduced structure data be deposited for immediate access rather than with a 6-month delayed release.

Another development was for Nature and sister journals to impose the MIAME standards for microarray data. This was a typical development in that we were involved in early discussions about standards and deposition, but had to wait for the community to finalize those standards and the databases, at which point we promptly insisted on them.

You will probably have seen our full statement of policy on data and materials here:

We have not insisted on the deposition of some raw datasets (eg brain imaging data) because we accept that such deposition can undermine the originators' priority in generating research results. This can be a controversial issue, and we remain ready to review such principles, but as stated above, for pragmatic reasons, the communities rather than journals are ultimately the determinants of our policies.

As for software, the principle we adopt is that the code need only be supplied when a new program is the kernel of the paper's advance, and otherwise we require the algorithm to be made available.

We are always open to suggestions about our policies.

Yours sincerely


Philip Campbell PhD
Editor-in-Chief, Nature
Editor-in-Chief, Nature Publishing Group
Rabett Run appreciates the reply. Tomorrow more from the Rabett archives.


Alastair said...


I thought it was a scientific principle that all experiments should be repeatable.

In that case, at the very least, a working version of the program should be made available with the data. However, there is no guarantee that the program has not been "tweaked" to give the desired results. So the code should also be made available so that anyone can verify that the code does produce the program which was used to perform the experiment.

Cheers, Alastair.

J Bowers said...

Alastair, who said science is supposed to be easy? What's to be learned from replicating the mistakes of others when you can source your own data and write your own code?

It was good enough for Roy Spencer, and someone else who replicated NASA's results which...

“…would have been even quicker if not for the beer…”