Top 5 things to know about journal data requirements

Dec 06, 2019 · Megan O'Donnell

This fall the University Library saw an increased number of authors caught off guard by journal data requirements. While not new, more journals now require that data supporting a research paper be made available during peer review or at the time of publication. Data requirements are often found in author instructions under headings such as “data availability”, “data citation”, and “data sharing.”  

To help ISU researchers prepare for this process, the library has complied the Top 5 things to know about data sharing before you publish your next paper: 

1. They’re all different. 

There is no uniform standard for journal data requirements. Some publishers have tiered systems where expectations vary from journal to journal (e.g., Wiley), while others have blanket policies that apply to all publications unless otherwise noted (e.g., PLOS). Journals make exceptions for data that cannot or should not be shared; however, expect to submit a short justification with the article if your data is subject to an exception. Requirements for when the data needs to be available differ among journals, so know what’s expected and on what time frame.  

2. Start early 

Speaking of timing, it will take time to prepare the data to support your paper. The University Library suggests initiating the process more than three weeks before the deadline. This allows time to coordinate with co-authors, gather and organize files, and finalize documentation. If a submission to ISU’s DataShare or other repository is planned, factor in extra time for data review and revision.   

2. Data needs to be published. 

Hosting on a webpage, “available by request”, and parking files on CyBox is not enough. Most journals require that data be maintained in a dedicated system that can assign it a persistent identifier (e.g., DOI), create searchable metadata, and maintain files in (near) perpetuity. These systems are called data repositories and they don’t just share data, they publish it. Repositories have different policies, requirements, and focuses, so prior to preparing files, it is strongly recommended that the appropriate one is identified. For example, ISU’s DataShare is a curated data repository; all data goes through a required quality check before publication. Using a curated repository takes longer, but it ensures that the published data is useable. Learn more about data repositories on the Library’s Data Management Plan Guide or ask your librarian for recommendations.  

4. Documentation is required. 

Data files are meaningless without context. The minimum expectation is that researchers will present enough context that others in the same field can verify the results using the provided data. This documentation is where file relationships, variables, etc. are defined and made explicit. Templates, examples, and best practices are available through the library. 

5. Prepare to share from the start. 

Have a plan to share data in place at the outset of the project. Periodic reevaluation of the plan serves as a reminder to researchers to follow best practices, which will streamline the publication process. Less time will be needed to prepare data for sharing and publication. It will already be formatted, organized and documented. In the spirit of transparency, individuals and teams are more accountable when operating under the assumption that all of their work, not just their papers, will be seen by peers.

For information about journal data sharing requirements or to learn how to publish on DataShare, email