Timothy Beardsley recently published a note in BioScience entitled “Notes on Changing Practices in Data Publication” that summarized discussions from an AIBS workshop held last December. The workshop began with a talk from Michael Stebbins, assistant director for biotechnology at the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), who urged scientists to make their data more widely available. Stebbins emphasized that “digitally formatted scientific data resulting from unclassified research supported wholly or in part by federal funding should be stored and publicly accessible to search, retrieve, and analyze.”
After the initial discussion about the rationale behind making scientific data accessible, there was a panel discussion about how publishers can encourage more data sharing. Several journal editors spoke about their journal’s data policies and about the reactions and issues associated with data publishing requirements. Stebbins pointed out that publishing the source data along with journal articles is not a complete solution for data accessibility. He said, “Data published as supplementary material are not so easily discovered as are data published, appropriately described, and registered in an appropriate repository.”
The workshop continued with talks from data publishers, repositories, and services like VertNet, iDigBio, The Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER), DataONE, and Dryad. It was evident that there are already many organizations and services that are beginning to address the issue of data sharing and accessibility.
The workshop concluded with discussion about next steps. The consensus was that social norms within the scientific community around data sharing need to be developed. In addition, more education and training is needed to give scientists the tools and skills associated with sharing data. Finally, we need better information technology solutions for tracking the provenance of data as well as financial support for the work that increased data sharing will involve.