In April 2022 we began a trial integration of figshare and the submission system of seven Nature Portfolio and Academic Journals. This is designed to make a straightforward data sharing option more easily accessible to submitting authors. The trial has enabled us to test appetite for a more streamlined way to share data, while examining questions such as which disciplines and data types are most commonly used.
The 10 week pilot period saw data deposited to figshare from 13% of submitted manuscripts across the seven journals, with uptake ranging from ~9 to ~17%. While a smaller percentage of these submissions will be accepted at each journal, we provide a means for authors to retain their data in the event their manuscript is rejected or transferred, so they don’t lose the value of having a data record created in a repository.
One study looking at the long-term availability of data from research articles demonstrated a significant advantage in making data available via a repository and DOI, as opposed to other poorer options like ‘Data availability on request’. As the ‘on request’ option is an easy path to follow at submission, we need to make the best practice solution of repository sharing more accessible. Against the background of a notable move towards requiring open data via policy (such as recent White House OSTP and NIH initiatives), this complements such requirements with practical tools to achieve compliance.
Ultimately, we want researchers to view data sharing as an essential and valuable exercise in itself, rather than a hurdle to article publication. We also know that a growing proportion of researchers already have a data sharing plan in place by submission, but evidence suggests a large proportion of authors could benefit from a straightforward generalist repository option at submission that backs up our policies’ preference for data sharing.
Expanding the solution
Our initial sample of journals spanned life, health, chemical and physical sciences. Since the end of the pilot we have expanded the integration across a wider range of disciplines, notably adding figshare to Nature for all Biological Sciences submissions.
We are progressively rolling out this solution to journals in the Nature Portfolio. We are keen to support the Nature policy that strongly encourages data sharing in repositories and we will work with different disciplines to address the different needs with respect to data sharing, and we aim to account for these in our systems. For example, we are working with Earth Sciences titles to support the Enabling FAIR data commitment, and its preference for data sharing in specialist community repositories, while adding figshare as an option where these aren’t available.
The journals that now have the figshare integration available:
Nature, Nature Aging, Nature Astronomy, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Cancer, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Genetics, Nature Geoscience, Nature Metabolism, Nature Plants, Nature Water, in addition to the original pilot journals: Nature Chemistry, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Nature Energy, Nature Neuroscience, Oncogene, Oncogenesis and Bone Marrow Transplantation.
Ongoing evaluation and development
As well as making the integration available more widely, we are committed to learning from usage so far and developing a better offering for authors. As we are seeing what types of data authors are submitting we have already made certain adaptations to the interface and will continue to address known challenges. Some key areas include:
- Improving reviewer access to data: the figshare integration provides a means of anonymous access to research data, but right now we need better understanding of how much reviewers are using this feature, and how we can promote review of data alongside the manuscript.
- Improving quality of metadata: our initial trial focused on the question of whether easier access prompted more authors to use a repository. The level of metadata added is largely defined by the authors. Having seen good uptake we can now examine what prompts or additional solutions could work alongside the integration to promote richer metadata records.
Usage and impact of data records: as more submitted data are published, we can start to analyse how these records are used, both via direct citations and Altmetrics embedded on the figshare page. This represents an alternative source of credit for authors to article-levels metrics; an area with significant potential to diversify research assessment.