An open future for ecological and evolutionary data?
Amye Kenall*, Simon Harold and Christopher Foote
A very succinct and accurate editorial on the future directions needed for data sharing in ecology & evolution was recently published at BMC Ecology. The key issues for ecology & evolution were identified and included the following:
Opportunity cost: available data reduces costs, provides opportunities, and serves local stakeholders
Shared benefits: new forms of collaboration, discovery, and accelerated synthesis will emerge
Blood, sweat and tears: long-term datasets are hard won and it is difficult to let them go (public)
A bigger picture: macroecology and other relatively new ways of doing ecology need open data
Data management: metadata is critical, always, and for ecology/evolution in particular because the ‘lab’ is often outdoors
Credit where credit is due: many new reputation economy tools and reward systems are in place to serve as incentives for all scholars not just for ecology and evolution
Transparency and trust: we review the manuscripts of others, why should datasets be free from scrutiny?
Each issue is well described. The one that clicked the most for me was the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ argument as I have heard it made by many ecologists. Fieldwork can be grueling. We also hope that we will reuse our own datasets many times. However, I suspect that we do not. Let them go free. As a personal goal, I have mentioned the idea of #ecodataweek on twitter as a good push to myself via a bit of friendly competition to get stuff out there more too.
Oikos also partners with Dryad, and I hope that this editorial likewise inspires you to publish your data. I would also love to see a more in-depth set of analyses for Oikos readers on these topics and how they relate to the journal mission of ‘novel synthesis’ and synthesis science in general.
Additional resources to consider:
1. DataONE for data management planning tools and a list of best management practices for data documentation (pdf link is best).
2. A good read on how our discipline has likely crossed into the realm of big data.
3. The pivotal nature of data sharing to the future of publishing in ecology.
4. Re-read the file-drawer problem papers such as the Csada et al. 1996 Oikos paper on the topic (classic for ecology but still feels modern with issues of limited OA and accessible data).