GEB adds unlimited data references section to papers

In a big step forward for allowing proper credit to be provided to all of the awesome folks collecting and publishing data, the journal Global Ecology & Biogeography has just announced that they will start supporting an unlimited set of references to datasets used in a paper.

A growing concern in the macroecological community has been that many papers whose data are used in meta-analyses or data-compilation papers have not been getting citation credit because most journals require these papers to only be listed in the supplemental material (which is not indexed by most indexing services). GEB is proud to support the inclusion of a second list of references within the main paper for all data papers used… To our knowledge, GEB is the first journal in the ecological field to do this. And we’ll be working with Wiley to further improve options in this area.

These references will be included immediately following the traditional references section in both the html and pdf versions of the paper. You can see an example in Olds et al. (2016).

What this means is that when you combine data from dozens or hundreds of studies to conduct a synthetic analysis, you can cite all of the sources in a way that will provide citation credit to those collecting the data1. It also means that scientists using large data compilations can cite the original data sources as well as the compilation itself2.

This is important for encouraging the publication of data, since one of the common reasons that scientists don’t publish data is a lack of credit, and citation only in non-indexed supplementary materials sections is a common concern.

Facilitating proper citation of all data sources is something the community has been requesting and it’s great to see GEB taking the lead in this area. Since Wiley, the publisher of GEB, is the largest publisher of ecology journals, it should be straightforward to implement this new approach widely. If other journals follow GEB’s lead, we will enter a new era where citation of data can be as complete as possible, allowing proper credit to everyone who collects and publishes data.

1GEB will need to make sure that this section gets properly picked up by the indexers, and tweak the presentation as necessary if it isn’t.
2Provided that the compilation provides a method for compiling a citation list of all associated sources.

2 Comments on “GEB adds unlimited data references section to papers

  1. This seems like an overdue improvement to the way journals allow authors to cite the products (data, articles, ideas, software, …) that they have used in the process of conducting the research being reported in a paper.

    What I find odd about the way GEB is going about this is that this still remains a separate list of references, independent of the main reference list. In the example you linked to, the data source references are an appendix and I doubt this will appear in the printed hard-copy version; if it does appear in the hard-copy, why separate this into an appendix in the first place instead of putting the data sources where they should be which is alongside the other references?

    Until journals start treating the data sources etc as valid citations and consider them first class citation to sit alongside, among, the traditional references, they continue to send a message that the two are of different status. Ultimately, that’s what needs to change (though I doubt it will until publishers stop producing deadwood copies where space is at a premium…)

  2. @gavin – sorry to take so long to approve this. I was taking a week away from the computer for the good of both my hands and my brain.

    I had the same thought about it being separated into a separate section, with my main worry being that the indexers won’t end up integrating these citations given the distinction (my footnote #1). I suspect this is probably what the new editorial group could successfully negotiate for at the moment and I think it’s still a big step forward.

    I think there is a rapid transition away from actually printing out copies of journals and I’m hopefully that this will continue to help in this area.

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