I’m worried about data.
I’m thrilled that data repositories are getting traction, funders are paying attention, and journals are making solid policies to encourage the public posting of research data. But at the same time, I’m worried. Two reasons:
- I’m afraid we are making promises to data creators about attribution and reward that we can’t keep. “Make your data citeable!” is the cry. Ok. So citeable is step one. Cited is step two. But for the citation to be useful, it has to be indexed so that citation metrics can be tracked and admired and used. Who is indexing data citations right now? As far as I can tell: absolutely no one. Worse yet: who CAN start this innovation, and index data citations in a big way? No one, unless they have access to the full text literature for text mining. Doesn’t have to be gold open access, but it does need to be indexed and cross-publisher, like PubMed Central is doing. PubMed Central is great, but what about all research that isn’t biomedicine?
- I’m afraid we are making data widely available without making the papers that describe its collection widely available. This is kinda dangerous, right? Here’s something that can be used for good, and it is open, but the instructions on what it means and how to use it well? That’ll be $30 please. It doesn’t really encourage or facilitate responsible behaviour. Lots of schools with computer science departments don’t subscribe to medical journals, for instance.
The solution to these two issues is greater access to the scientific literature. Fortunately, there is movement toward this. But it needs your help, and it needs it today. It’ll take 5 minutes. Sign your name to the #openaccess petition in support of free access to the scientific literature so that we can build the machine-friendly indexing tools we need to keep our promises.
Please sign, and spread the word to your data repository colleagues. If you have a data-related blog, please blog about this issue. Soon. Momentum matters now.
(all of the fantastic synergistic text and data combination research that could happen if the text were available??? that’s another whole post….)
ps you don’t need to be a US citizen to sign, here are reasons why non-US citizens should sign too.