The New Data Policy is Here!

As of right now, AGU is enforcing the publications data policy.  The full policy is found here:

Note that “data” includes not only numbers from instrumentation but also protocols, methods, and code used to generate any number reported in the paper.

The requirement is that authors explicitly state in the “Acknowledgments” section how readers can get ahold of the data/code for the paper.  AGU staff are now conducting compliance checks for these statements before sending the manuscript on to the journal editors.  Yes, you have to do this; it is not optional. If you omit these statements, then the editorial assistant will send you a note to add it in.

So, what counts as availability? Open repositories are fine. Many of us already do this by thanking CDAWeb or OMNIweb or PDS or some mission or instrument-specific website.  This can mean stating that result files or code are available on a personal or group website.  JGR-Space Physics does not want to be the data repository for the community, but you can also upload it as an electronic supplement to the manuscript.  As far as I am concerned, you can even say that it will be made available upon request.  Another key point: available does not mean free.  If you are publishing data that you had to purchase, then pointing to the place where you obtained it is acceptable.  It is not your responsibility to make someone else’s data publicly available.

How long do you need to make it available?  This is not specified in the AGU policy, and for those citing repositories, it is out of your hands.  However, if you are posting it on a local website, then perhaps two years is a reasonable length of time for the promising availability.

Another question you might be thinking about is this: why is AGU demanding and enforcing this?  In a word: reproducibility.  Making the numbers and codes available to others will facilitate mutual result verification and hopefully will lead to more rapid scientific discovery.



9 thoughts on “The New Data Policy is Here!

  1. In the link you provided. The AGU is requiring that “authors are expected to curate the above data for at least 5 years after publication and provide a transparent process to make the data available to anyone upon request” This contradicts your statement that two years is acceptable. My concern here is where people are going to find a stable place to store data and perhaps more importantly the tools required to process that data for five years. Even more challenging maybe maintaining the tools for accessing the data as computational system change.

    As far as code goes, my question is what level of support am I required to provide with someone requesting access to my software?

  2. You are right…AGU does indeed specify a duration of availability…5 years. My 2-year suggestion is overruled.

    As for your questions about where to store data (instrumental and numerical) and the creation/processing tools (i.e., code), and how much support is needed…the short answer is that there is not a definitive answer. The policy isn’t even 5 weeks old, let alone 5 years, so AGU does not have case studies or stats on implementation and enforcement. Personally, I don’t think that you can plan for software changes, job changes, or other future events that might render your original availability plan unworkable. Do your best. Also, you don’t have to offer any support potential users of your files. If they want your time, then they should at least offer coauthorship and, even better, pay you (i.e., joint proposal).

    As editor, I cannot (and will not) be the policeman for identifying offenders and enforcing availability. I am, however, the enforcer for manuscripts to include wording about the availability. At this point, the plan is to rely on each author’s ethical integrity to uphold their end of the availability mandate. We’ll see how this plays out and if AGU (or my editorial board) develops an enforcement policy.

    • Thanks for the clarification and discussion.

      In terms of practical matters is a statement along the lines of

      “The model data, version control tag of numerical model, and routines used to make the figures will be preserved on a long-term storage system. These items will be made available upon request to the corresponding author.”

      an accepted item to place in the acknowledgements section of the paper? It goes without saying that I would agree to do everything in that statement.

  3. Pingback: Models And The Data Policy | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

  4. Pingback: Models And The Data Policy | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

  5. I recently submitted a manuscript to Water Resources Research (AGU), and had included in my acknowledgements that all data could be obtained by emailing the corresponding author. I also cited the code which was already publicly available in a masters thesis. My manuscript was not sent to the editor as I, “made no mention of how to access your data in your Acknowledgements.” I say that only to suggests that being “available on request,” must not be sufficient.

  6. Pingback: More On AGU’s Data Policy | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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