13 February 2010

let. to ed. re. "Empty Archives" -- Nature

We read with great interest the recent article in Nature about the
difficulties in data sharing and archiving ("Empty Archives"). While the author discusses database archiving in detail, he neglects to consider the important archival role
served by academic journals. When it comes to archiving, journals are
more than disinterested third parties. They have historically been, and
continue to be, the central actors in scientific communication. As such,
journals should take the lead in devising and implementing standards
that will allow data from disparate fields to be shared and exchanged.
They should also embrace data sharing as part of the publication
process. Note that this is very much the viewpoint taken in the
companion article in the issue from the Toronto Data Release Workshop.

Although journals have historically sought to provide a permanent record
of scientific advance, many of the problems that we now face in relation
to data archiving and sharing stem from the fact that the publication
process with its varied, idiosyncratic formats often seems purposefully
divorced from this archiving role. It is time for journals to devise
universal structured versions of articles and appendices that
accommodate - and archive -- large data sets. This is no small task, and
it is no doubt larger than any one journal or editorial board. But
while daunting, such progress is necessary to preserve the value and
relevance of journals - and the fundamental service they provide - as we
move into a database-driven future.

Dov Greenbaum JD, PhD
Michael Seringhaus PhD
Mark Gerstein PhD

Above is an unpublished letter in response to:

Published online 9 September 2009 | Nature 461, 160-163 (2009) |
doi:10.1038/461160a Data sharing: Empty archives Bryn Nelson


Nature 461, 168-170 (10 September 2009) | doi:10.1038/461168a; Published
online 9 September 2009 Prepublication data sharing Toronto
International Data Release Workshop Authors