Data publishing

Not to be confused with Database publishing.

Data publishing (also data publication) is the act of releasing data in published form for (re)use by others. It is a practice consisting in preparing certain data or data set(s) for public use thus to make them available to everyone to use as they wish. This practice is an integral part of the open science movement. There is a large and multidisciplinary consensus on the benefits resulting from this practice.[1] [2] [3]

The main goal is to elevate data to be first class research outputs.[4] There are a number of initiatives underway as well as points of consensus and issues still in contention.[5]

However, publishers supported data publishing/publication either as an integral part of the paper or as supplemental material published jointly with the paper. These approaches are affected from a number of drawbacks from the data publication perspective including the difficulties in separating the data from the rest.

Data publishing/publication is a practice on its own:

Data papers

Data papers are “scholarly publication of a searchable metadata document describing a particular on-line accessible dataset, or a group of datasets, published in accordance to the standard academic practices”.[7] Their final aim being to provide “information on the what, where, why, how and who of the data”.[4] The intent of a data paper is to offer descriptive information on the related dataset(s) focusing on data collection, distinguishing features, access and potential reuse rather than on data processing and analysis.[8] Because data papers are considered academic publications no different than other types of papers they allow scientists sharing data to receive credit in currency recognizable within the academic system, thus "making data sharing count".[9] This provides not only an additional incentive to share data, but also through the peer review process, increases the quality of metadata and thus reusability of the shared data.

Thus data papers represent the scholarly communication approach to data sharing.

Despite their potentiality, data papers are not the ultimate and complete solution for all the data sharing and reuse issues and, in some cases, they are considered to induce false expectations in the research community.[10]

Data journals

Data papers are supported by a rich array of journals, some of which are "pure", i.e. they are dedicated to publish data papers only, while others – the majority – are "mixed", i.e. they publish a number of articles types including data papers.

A comprehensive survey on data journals is available [11] A non-exhaustive list of data journals has been compiled by staff at the University of Edinburgh.[12]

Examples of "pure" data journals are: Earth System Science Data, Scientific Data, Journal of Open Archaeology Data, and Open Health Data.

Examples of "mixed" journals publishing data papers are: SpringerPlus, PLOS ONE, Biodiversity Data Journal, F1000Research, and GigaScience.

Data citation

Data citation is the provision of accurate, consistent and standardised referencing for datasets just as bibliographic citations are provided for other published sources like research articles or monographs. Typically the well established Digital Object Identifier (DOI) approach is used with DOIs taking users to a website that contains the metadata on the dataset and the dataset itself.[13][14]

Several organizations have been established with the aim of driving the data citation agenda. These include the following:[15]

Data citation is an emerging topic in computer science and it has been defined as a computational problem.[16] Indeed, citing data poses significant challenges to computer scientists and the main problems to address are related to:[17]

See also


  1. Costello MJ (2009). "Motivating online publication of data". BioScience. 59 (5): 418–427. doi:10.1525/bio.2009.59.5.9.
  2. Smith VS (2009). "Data publication: towards a database of everything". BMC Research Notes. 2 (113). doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-113. PMC 2702265Freely accessible. PMID 19552813.
  3. Lawrence, B; Jones, C.; Matthews, B.; Pepler, S.; Callaghan, S. (2011). "Citation and Peer Review of Data: Moving Towards Formal Data Publication". International Journal of Digital Curation. 6 (2): 4–37. doi:10.2218/ijdc.v6i2.205.
  4. 1 2 Callaghan, S., Donegan, S., Pepler, S., Thorley, M., Cunningham, N., Kirsch, P., Ault, L., Bell, P., Bowie, R., Leadbetter, A., Lowry, R., Moncoiffé, G., Harrison, K., Smith-Haddon, B., Weatherby, A., & Wright, D. (2012). "Making data a first class scientific output: Data citation and publication by NERCs environmental data centres". International Journal of Digital Curation. 7 (1): 107–113. doi:10.2218/ijdc.v7i1.218.
  5. Kratz J, Strasser C (2014). "Data publication consensus and controversies". F1000Research. 3 (94). doi:10.12688/f1000research.4518.
  6. Assante, M.; Candela, L.; Castelli, D.; Tani, A. (2016). "Are Scientific Data Repositories Coping with Research Data Publishing?". Data Science Journal. 15. doi:10.5334/dsj-2016-006/.
  7. Chavan, V. & Penev, L. (2011). "The data paper: a mechanism to incentivize data publishing in biodiversity science". BMC Bioinformatics. 12 (15). doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-S15-S2.
  8. Newman Paul; Corke Peter (2009). "Data papers — peer reviewed publication of high quality data sets". International Journal of Robotics Research. 28 (5): 587–587. doi:10.1177/0278364909104283.
  9. Gorgolewski KJ, Margulies DS, Milham MP (2013). "Making data sharing count: a publication-based solution". Frontiers in Neuroscience. 7. doi:10.3389/fnins.2013.00009.
  10. Parsons, M.A.; Fox, P.A. (2013). "Is data publication the right metaphor?". Data Science Journal. 12: WDS31–WDS46.
  11. Candela, L., Castelli, D., Manghi, P. and Tani, A. (2015). "Data Journals: A Survey". Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 66 (1): 1747–1762. doi:10.1002/asi.23358.
  13. Australian National Data Service: Data Citation Awareness (Accessed 20 March 2012)
  14. Ball, A., Duke, M. (2011). ‘Data Citation and Linking’. DCC Briefing Papers. Edinburgh: Digital Curation Centre. Available online:
  15. Data Citation Principles Workshop, May 16 - May 17, 2011, IQSS at Harvard University: Links (Accessed 20 March 2012)
  16. Buneman, P., Davidson, S. and Frey, J. (2016). ‘Why data citation is a computational problem’. Communication of the ACM, To appear in September 2016. Available online:
  17. Silvello, G. and Ferro, N. (2016). ‘Data Citation is Coming. Introduction to the Special Issue on Data Citation’. Bulletin of IEEE Technical Committee on Digital Libraries, Volume 12 Issue 1, May 2016. Available online:
  18. Buneman, P. and Silvello, G. (2010). ‘A Rule-Based Citation System for Structured and Evolving Datasets’. IEEE Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Data Engineering , Vol. 3, No. 3. IEEE Computer Society, pp. 33-41, September 2010. Available online:
  19. Silvello, G. (2016). ‘Learning to Cite Framework: How to Automatically Construct Citations for Hierarchical Data’. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), to appear, 2016. Pre-print available online:
  20. Silvello, G. (2015). ‘A Methodology for Citing Linked Open Data Subsets’. D-Lib Magazine 21 (1/2), 2015. Available online:
  21. Buneman, P. (2006). ‘How to Cite Curated Databases and how to Make Them Citable’. In Proc. of the 18th International Conference on Scientific and Statistical Database Management, SSDBM 2006, pages 195–203, 2006.
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