The sharing, preservation and reuse of data has become an increasingly important element of modern scientific research. However, whilst large granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have recently embraced data sharing, resistance amongst some parts of the scientific community has continued to slow down the pace of scientific progress. All this time, valuable research data over the world is still kept under lock and key or hidden away in lab drawers.
BMC Research Notes has now shed further light on science's "dark data." The journal is commissioning a large, ongoing collection of educational articles which outline procedures for sharing data that enable the data to be readily re-used by others, which will provide researchers with best practice guidance for exposing their dark data to the light.
The first article in this series, by Vickers and Cronin, provides a template for the provision and description of experimental data, from a cancer cohort study, for public distribution. As it grows, the collection will prove hugely significant for encouraging future scientific advances, and will lead to an increased level of secondary data sharing within the scientific community. Dr Cameron Neylon of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and co-author of the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science (http://pantonprinciples.org/), said "Data is the underlying foundation of our science and it is crucial for both replicating results as well as building on them that we work harder at making data more effectively available and useable. It is great to see a pioneer of the Open Access literature like BioMed Central providing leadership on the issue of making data openly available and providing the tools that will enable researchers to improve on current practice."
The journal is seeking to encourage as wide a range of submissions as possible by waiving the publication fee for all articles which use or link to open data that is prepared in line with a community-accepted standard. This approach is part of BioMed Central's wider support for the open data movement, which includes the presentation of the 'BioMed Central Open Data Award' at the publisher's annual Research Awards Ceremony.
Speaking of the launch of the commissioned series, Associate Journal Publisher, Iain Hrynaszkiewicz, said: "Increasing online open data availability in formats than can be readily re-used and analyzed by others puts the processing power into journalists' hands; rather than relying on outside specialists such as policy makers to provide insights, raw data can now be analyzed and interpreted in newsrooms. This is the emerging field of data-driven journalism, in which journalists gather, analyze and visualize 'big' data and combine it with compelling, credible storytelling."
"Ensuring open data can be readily used by others adds real value to the, occasionally challenging, data sharing-process," he adds. We are very excited to find out how others will re-use the data made available by BioMed Central's open data initiatives.
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