Big Data and Society 6 (1) (2019)
AbstractTo improve the quality and efficiency of research, groups within the scientific community seek to exploit the value of data sharing. Funders, institutions, and specialist organizations are developing and implementing strategies to encourage or mandate data sharing within and across disciplines, with varying degrees of success. Academic journals in ecology and evolution have adopted several types of public data archiving policies requiring authors to make data underlying scholarly manuscripts freely available. The effort to increase data sharing in the sciences is one part of a broader “data revolution” that has prompted discussion about a paradigm shift in scientific research. Yet anecdotes from the community and studies evaluating data availability suggest that these policies have not obtained the desired effects, both in terms of quantity and quality of available datasets. We conducted a qualitative, interview-based study with journal editorial staff and other stakeholders in the academic publishing process to examine how journals enforce data archiving policies. We specifically sought to establish who editors and other stakeholders perceive as responsible for ensuring data completeness and quality in the peer review process. Our analysis revealed little consensus with regard to how data archiving policies should be enforced and who should hold authors accountable for dataset submissions. Themes in interviewee responses included hopefulness that reviewers would take the initiative to review datasets and trust in authors to ensure the completeness and quality of their datasets. We highlight problematic aspects of these thematic responses and offer potential starting points for improvement of the public data archiving process.
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