One aspect of our research that I don’t remember seeing much comment on in relation to the Decadal Plan currently being prepared (https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/biosystematics-taxonomy) is the safe long-term storage and sharing of data.
I was reminded of this by a very recent editorial by Theresa Culley in Applications in Plant Sciences 5(10): ‘The frontier of data discoverability: why we need to share our data’ (see http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.3732/apps.1700111).
She points out that not only SHOULD we make data widely accessible, it is now often required by granting bodies and journals.
To quote from her abstract, there are good reasons for depositing data in permanent repositories:
‘(1) it prevents data loss due to accidents, theft, or death of the researcher; (2) it enables published research to be reproduced by others; (3) publications associated with accessible data sets can have higher citation rates; (4) deposited data sets are increasingly recognized for scholarly recognition and professional advancement; and (5) stored and accessible data can be used in the future for projects that are unanticipated today’.
Her article is based on the American situation, but the main points are also very applicable for Australasia.
She raises various questions about procedure such as: Who should set up such data repositories? Who should be responsible for seeing that data are stored in a suitable format and with appropriate metadata to make them intelligible in future? Who should pay (always a big question) for these repositories and for ongoing curation of data to ensure continuing accessibility?
Current examples of data repositories that have been widely accepted as useful are GenBank and EMBL for sequence data. Dryad (http://datadryad.org/) is another example.
It would be useful if the Decadal Plan addressed at least the general question of data repositories in our field of research and what we might aspire to achieve in the next decade. Is data storage another role for the proposed coordinating body for biosystematics and taxonomy? Or is there enough activity in other parts of the world for us to just use what is being set up there?
Karen L. Wilson AM
Honorary Research Associate, National Herbarium of New South Wales
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England, Armidale, NSW
Secretary, General Committee, International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi & Plants
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