Friday 17 October 2014

Mind the (data) gap… Learned Publishing special issue

Fiona Murphy (centre) talks Data at the ALPSP conference
For anyone who has ever travelled on the London Underground and endured endless repeats of ‘Mind the gap’, this special issue of Learned Publishing is your equivalent warning on data.

As funders make open data a policy stipulation, publishers must prepare for these requirements. In fact publishers are well placed to support open data, and society publishers are uniquely well placed to be a part of the solution: they are at the heart of their community and understand their needs.

But what do you do next? How can you mind your data gap and understand what it means for your organization and its community?

In this special online-only issue of Learned Publishing, the focus is purely on data. Guest edited by Alice Meadows, Director of Communications at Wiley and Fiona Murphy, STM Publisher, it is published open access with the support of Wiley.

We caught up with Alice and Fiona (who was just back from last month's European Research Council Workshop on Research Data Management and Sharing in Brussels), to talk data deluge and why now for this special issue.

So why focus on data now?

Alice: The OSTP memo from 2013 and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research Data Pilot are two examples of funders driving open data. Meanwhile, more data than ever are being collected. Technology is improving our ability to analyse and share them, but there are still huge barriers to that being done effectively; you’d be surprised how much data collection is still manual.

Fiona: And we still lack globally standard ways of collecting, managing, sharing, and storing data which creates a whole new set of challenges when the ultimate aim is to enable re-use and interoperability. Susan Reilly's paper provides a librarian's perspective of some of these issues, while Varsha Khodiya and her F1000 colleagues tackle data sharing, citation, and more.

What can publishers to do help?

Alice: If publishers and societies aren't careful, they will once again be playing catch-up with the funders on a growing requirement in their research communities. This is a golden opportunity to lead from the front and help researchers. In the words of Mark Hahnel in this interview on the Wiley Exchanges blog, open data can help “Opening up research data has the potential to both save lives (say with medical advances) and to enhance them with socio-economic progress.” That’s a pretty compelling argument. And societies and society publishers have a particular part to play here, as demonstrated in the paper by Hazel Norman of the British Ecological Society. 

Fiona: That’s not to say that publishers aren't already working on opening up data. My paper Data and Scholarly Publishing: the transforming landscape sets the scene and provides an overview of how publishers are responding to date.

ALPSP: What is the most important theme to emerge from the issue?

Fiona: Without a doubt, it’s the importance of collaboration. Cooperation between stakeholders is crucial to successfully opening up data. Andrew Treloar reflects on the work of the Research Data Alliance in his paper. Having recently returned from a European Research Council workshop attended by a whole cross-section of stakeholders, I can only agree that these types of coordinated action are the best way forward.

Alice: Similarly, Sarah Callaghan's paper on preserving the integrity of the scientific record shows how the scholarly community is collaborating to solve issues around data citation and linking. But if they’re not familiar with recent developments or with networks like RDA, I’d urge readers to access the articles, share with colleagues and talk through what it means for their organization. This special issue is a snapshot of views from right now - things are likely to change rapidly. We’d love to know what ALPSP members think and if they have positive examples and experiences they can share.

Learned Publishing special data issue is available now online open access on the Learned Publishing site.

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