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Data papers

In a typical research paper, we collect data and analyze the data to answer some scientific questions. Although some journals require raw data to be available for sharing, some don’t, and the paper always only publishes the analyzed results. After the paper is published, the data are most likely stored in the lab and are forgotten. Unlike these traditional research articles, data papers are a fairly new type of publication that only reports specific datasets. These papers facilitate data sharing and reuse and give credit to researchers who have collected the data. There are also journals that almost exclusively publish data papers.

Data papers give thorough descriptions of the datasets. Any further analysis of the data should be removed from such papers. Authors can generate another paper, which would be a regular research paper, to report findings from their analysis of the data. For example, in Ecology’s data paper guidelines, the journal states that “detailed analysis of data sets could, however, form the core of a companion article.” In a data paper, the descriptions should be sufficiently detailed so that readers can understand the data and collection methods and can reuse the data. Since data papers are peer reviewed, only those of adequate quality (e.g., experiment design is scientifically sound, data are collected using valid methods, and datasets are complete) can be published.

All data papers are open access and should not have any restrictions for other researchers to access the data. Publishing a data paper essentially gives these data a permanent home online that invites any researcher who is interested in the data to use them for their own analysis. While some journals may host the data themselves, most journals require data to be deposited in relevant repositories. For example, Scientific Data lists a number of subject- and data type-specific repositories as well as a few generalists repositories

Below are some lists of data journals and journals that publish data papers.

Data@MLibrary: A Growing List of Data Journals
Trac: The PREPARDE Project
Data Journals
Data journals: A survey

(The journal list in Supporting Information is freely downloadable)

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