A further step towards Open Data in Annals of Forest Science

Annals of Forest Science, owned  by Inra and published by Springer-Nature, actively develops since several years open access to publications (see our blog post on this topic) and advocates the publication of data papers (information available here). In agreement with the Charter for open access to publications and data, recently published by Inra, and with the new policies promoting data sharing at Springer Nature, Annals of Forest Science takes a new step in direction of open data by refering to an explicit and standardised research policy as described by Springer Nature.

Four types of data policies were defined in this frame:

Type 1. Data sharing and data citation is encouraged.

Type 2. Data sharing and evidence of data sharing are encouraged.

Type 3. Data sharing is encouraged and statements of data availability are required.

Type 4. Data sharing, evidence of data sharing and peer review of data are required.

Annals of Forest Science decided to comply with the Type 3 policy, which implies some changes in our editorial procedures. To better understand the underlying changes, a quick overlook follows. More details are available at Springer Nature.

  1. The authors will be systematically encouraged to make their data available whatever the protocol used (access to the data on request, access on a repository with or without DOI, access via larger data bases, etc….).  The form of the access procedure will be decided by the authors who keep full property and responsibility of the data.
  2. Nevertheless, open access to data will not be compulsory, and there will be no link between acceptance of a paper and the data access policy of the authors.
  3. The authors will be prompted to add a section describing in detail their data sharing policy. In particular, they will state where and how the data may be accessed. In case they decide not to provide an access, they will have to briefly state the background for their decision (privacy agreement, data not fully exploited by the research group, patents and secret protecting the data, …).
  4. The authors will also be encouraged to cite published data sets in the list of references together with their Digital Object Identifier (DOI): data sets are fully citable scientific productions.
  5. The handling editors will make sure that the data policy statement is available and explicit in the manuscript, as a section similar to the acknowladgements. Templates for such specific sections will be made available. They will also check the links to the data sets when provided, without further assessing data quality, which is the sole responsibility of the authors.
  6. Referees will be incited, when data are made available, to check that the data are actually available and correspond to the content of the manuscript; they might check some statistical treatments when they feel it useful.
  7. The reference to these steps will be made available in the Editorial Manager tools as a guide to authors and reviewers probably for the beginning of next year.
  8. We will produce during the next weeks a revised version of the instructions to authors describing what we request from the authors and referees.
  9. Details on these procedures will be made available on the website of Annals of Forest Science as soon as the new policy is fully implemented (ideally beginning 2017).

We do believe that these steps in favour of open data are decisive for our journal (as for may others engaged in similar policies with different publishers). They should dramatically increase the quality of published material. Type 3 policy has the great advantage of avoiding the use of  strongly binding obligations and to leave authors the choice to make data available or not. We will check how this new and explicit data policy will incite the authors to be more pro-active in making their data available for checks and re-use. Central will be the availability of data repositories for the authors, as well as strong incentives in that direction by the institutions employing the authors. The charter recently issued by Inra, our employer, comes in support to this move.

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