February focus from COPE Education Subcommittee: Data and Reproducibility

COPE’s Core Practice #1: data and reproducibility

We continue a closer examination of COPE’s individual core practices this month with a focus on Data and Reproducibility (Core Practice #5) 

“Journals should include policies on data availability and encourage the use of reporting guidelines and registration of clinical trials and other study designs according to standard practice in their discipline.”

Conducting and reporting research are pivotal to academic careers and advancing research in general. The review and publication of this research is largely in the realm of scholarly publication, making this practice a logical convergence of institutional and publishing interests. Many of the resources found under this core practice outline cooperative practices between journal editors and institutional oversight bodies. Data fabrication and falsification are the most common types of misconduct in the highlighted resources, again, an area for collaboration between institutions and journals. In support of reproducibility, COPE supports initiatives such as clinical trial registration and the use of standardized reporting guidelines to ensure that studies can be replicated.

Data sharing policies are one area of research funded by COPE and disseminated at the Peer Review Congress in 2017.  This research is reflective of the broader COPE membership in its sampling of data sharing policies from five disciplinary groups: biomedical sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and formal sciences. Overall, biomedical science journals have implemented data sharing to a greater extent than other disciplines, but physical sciences and social sciences have similar and relatively strong policies to enable data sharing. A summary of a discussion from a  COPE Forum in 2016 explores some of the practical issues editors and publishers face in developing and implementing data sharing guidelines for their journals, as well as the lack of utility of data sharing for certain disciplines. Thus, Core Practice #5 does not require journals to host or review data, but rather to develop appropriate policies related to data availability. For some disciplines and journals, there might not be any data to share; for others, there could be a requirement to deposit data in a specific data sharing repository or simply to agree to share data when asked by another researcher. The essential element, as for all of COPE’s practices, is that journals be transparent and consistent in their application of any policies. 

COPE Education Committee