Annals of Forest Science contributes to the development of open science and open data

Inra, Centre de Nancy Lorraine, Chief Editor of Annals of Forest Science; dreyer(at)

Open science, a long discussed option for enhancing the impact of scientific research for the scientific community, but also for the broader public audience, is now entering a phase of practical implementation. Many research institutions now develop an explicit policy in support of open science. Open science is not just an abstract concept based on an ethical approach (which already justifies largely that researchers invest some energy in open science), it bears also many advantages for the researchers themselves (McKiernan, 2016). Open science displays many different facets that may all be implemented right now by researchers as they already may:

1. post free copies of previously published articles in a public repository; this is even easier with Annals of Forest Science as all published papers are automatically addressed to the public repository HAL  12 months after publication (; as such, the journal follows the criteria of a green open access journal;

2. publish in open access journals (Annals of Forest Science is a green open access journal, with, in addition, no article processing charges);

3. publicly share data and materials via a trusted repository; sharing data (but also other material) is probably one of the most important steps towards open science. A very spectacular move into this direction was recently undertaken in the United Kingdom by leading academic authorities (funding bodies, public administration, universities, wellcome trust) under the form of a “Concordat on Open Research Data” ( that sets a very precise frame for open data implementation in the UK research organisations under 10 major principles.  The European Union recently produced a pilot for open data ( At Inra for instance, a new webpage dedicated to data management was recently opened (; similar pages are available at many universities and research institutes. Annals of Forest Science publishes data papers with associated open data, and encourages all authors to provide access to their data (see below);

4. preregister studies, i.e., the experimental plan and design BEFORE implementing an experiment; this is an effective way to minimize bias while interpreting research results and preparing papers;

In addition to these four points, there are many other aspects to open science that have been largely described in recent literature. Open science is now promoted by many different bodies (funding agencies, research institutions, journals, scientific societies); the principles of open science basically apply to almost all publicly funded research (with indeed the exception of funds devoted to industrial innovation and technologies).

In this framework, Annals of Forest Science develops a voluntary policy towards open science and made significant moves towards the support to open data.

  1. we  publish “data papers” (see for a detailed description of this innovation and the procedure for publication of such papers; see also for an example of a recently published data paper). Data papers are a very efficient means to disseminate information about useful data bases made available for further research; the data need be available on a public  repository chosen by the authors  and have a Digital Object Identifier (DOI); Annals of Forest Science provides also templates to create the needed “Metadata files” that enable a smotth reuse of the available data; this procedure is now under full swing and the first voluntary submissions of data papers are on the way;
  2. we “incite” our authors to make the data sets that support the submitted manuscripts available for the referees for review purposes but also for future readers; in this cas, we incite the authors to make the data  available in a public repository, to have them identified with a DOI, and to produce a metadatafile with all required information for a potential reuse of the data.

Making data available in addition to published papers  definitely is an important step towards open science. It will create an important added-value for the published material,; it should be highly beneficial for researchers who would value their data sets, and for the scientific community as meta-analyses of the data would be very easy if all data were made available under common formats. From the point of view of the research organisations, data are too valuable to remain hidden in hard drives with no reuse possibility.

Unfortunately, we feel little enthusiasm among authors to share their data. There might be different reasons for this reluctance. The most likely one is that sharing data supposes to follow an explicit and work prone data management plan. Such plans are now compulsory in many calls for proposals, in particular those issued by the European Union. The data management procedures are explicit, easy to follow, and moreover, of benefit to the researchers themselves as they help manage data for their own use. Switching from a properly held data bases to an open data bases is then an easy move that should become standard in the near future. Another reason is that researchers still fear that their precious data would be mis-used, or even “stolen” by competing teams before they finish valuing them in research publications. This might happen, but there are usually many procedures to keep control over a data set as long as the corresponding papers have not been published. Moreover, depositing data in a public repository (choosing the right one is an issue indeed) and have them identified with a DOI is a way to claim author’s rights on the data. Such data sets are then citeable items. Indeed, they will be cited by those who reuse them the same way paper references are cited; moreover, they are considered to be a scientific production of similar value than a paper in a renowed research journal. A common approach to citation of data sets has been developed (Data Citation Synthesis Group, 2014) and new metrics are under development to better document the impact of open data bases (Kratz & Strasser, 2015). All these arguments should push researchers towards providing the same attention to their data sets than to their published papers.

Some journals already decided that providing the data in support to the claims and conclusions put forward in a paper was a prerequisite for publication under the motto: no data, no publication. The number of such journals remains rather small, but is likely to increase rapidly. Annals of Forest Science is not going to take this move now, but will put every effort in convincing authors to make their data available.  We will provide the authors with some support in this direction (template for metadata, simplified procedures, etc). Nevertheless, we need to point out that support for data management needs to come from the institutions of the researchers, not the journal in which they publish. This is even more true given that leagally, many institutions are the actual owners of the data (contrary to papers whose rights are owned by the researchers themselves).

Last but not least, the editors of Annals of Forest Science decline publication of many submitted manuscript mainly because of sloppy witing, poor structure, lack of explicit research question, not substantiated conclusions. Nevertheless, such manuscripts sometimes back on a valuable data set that could be of use if added to a number of other similar sets. In such cases, the editors will try to convince the authors and data owners that such data sets deserve either a deposit in a public database (with authorship righs for the data producer) or in some cases incite the authors to convert their manuscript into a data paper. This would then be a more positive outcome for the authors then a simple “decline publication” decision.

The move towards open data is just at its beginning and we have a lot of work ahead. Annals of Forest Science and its editors will do their best in support of this move, in the frame of the contributions a journal might provide. We will keep you updated on this central issue for science editing.


Data Citation Synthesis Group 2014. Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles. Martone M. (ed.) San Diego CA: FORCE11; 2014 []

Kratz JE, Strasser C. 2015. Comment: Making data count. Scientific Data 2:150039. doi: 10.1038/sdata.

McKiernan EC, Bourne PE, Brown CT, Buck S, Kenall A, Lin J, McDougall D, Nosek BA, Ram K, Soderberg CK, Spies JR, Thaney K, Updegrove A, Woo KH, Yarkoni T 2016. How open science helps researchers succeed. eLife 5: e16800. 10.7554/eLife.16800.

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