Data journals and data reports – don’t miss out on this useful publishing format!
By Kirsty, on 17 August 2021
Guest post by James Houghton – Research Data Support Officer
Why not publish a data report article?
For a researcher who produces large amounts of data or works heavily with software and code for analysis, getting proper credit for their efforts can be a problem. Traditionally, an academic article is written in a format where a hypothesis is tested, results produced and analysed, and ends with a conclusion. This format increasingly is a poor fit for the work of many and data journals are one solution to this issue. The goal of this kind of journal is to publish a type of article usually referred to as a data report which focusses on announcing and describing the output of research projects which are resources, raw data, databases or similar and can be of use to the research community in general.
Publishing with a data journal offers several benefits. First, a data report article is more formal than a publication of data files in a repository and is a peer reviewed publication which then contributes to a researcher’s publication record which is important for CVs and advancement for many. Second, they allow a more detailed explanation of a dataset and any analysis or code related to it than is usually otherwise possible. Third, the appearance of an article in a recognised journal can help to drive visibility of a dataset for other researchers. In practice it my often be the case that a repository will be used to host material which is discussed at length in a paper.
For the research community more generally, data reports are a great way to discover and understand valuable contributions which they can re-use and build on. The data report guarantees there has been some level of peer-review applied to the data and, therefore, increases the confidence in the quality.
Data journals have flourished in recent years. Many publishers have introduced titles which specialise in data announcements and many other journals have begun to allow data articles as one of their accepted formats. Publishers will have their own specific guidelines for exactly what to include (or not include), but data articles will often have the following features:
- Detailed description of the methodology of how the data was produced and processed, allowing for far more detail than generally appears in a “traditional” publication.
- Documentation on structure and format of the data and details of how to retrieve it.
- Comments on how the data could potentially be re-used.
- Very limited or no results and conclusions.
The scope of a data journal varies greatly
- Some journals publish a wide range of data reports that cover many research areas, such as Scientific Data published by Springer Nature.
- Others are more subject specific such as Big Earth Data published by Taylor and Francis focussing on ecology and climate science, or Journal of Open Psychology Data published by the Open Access Ubiquity Press and specialising in psychology and anthropology data.
Of course, you must always check individual journal’s instruction for authors before preparing an article for submission.
Repositories and data journals should be seen as symbiotic, rather than needing to choose one or the other. An openly shared data set can be made available, and a data journal can be used as a way of announcing the existence of the resource to the community along with a detailed commentary which might not be easily supported by the repository itself. In fact, depending on the journal, hosting the data with a recognised external repository may even be a requirement for the publication process.
We won’t attempt to provide a comprehensive list of all journals that support this publication type here. There are many discipline specific and several more generalist options – but we would encourage you to investigate the options available in your subject area and tell us what you find!