Data Journals: Standalone Publication for Replication, Negative, Intermediate, or Simply Noteworthy Data

As the scholarly community continues to recognize the importance of open data sharing for increasing the reproducibility of research, researchers are faced with a growing menu of options through which to make their data available. For example, is it better to deposit data in a digital repository, which often grants depositors a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), or to formally describe a dataset in a data journal article, or to share it through a metadata registry like the Pitt Data Catalog? A recent video call for papers from the journal Data in Brief argues that data journals offer a unique opportunity for standalone publication of genres that are often critically underserved by the scholarly publishing ecosystem: datasets containing replication data, negative results, and intermediate data for research in progress.

The distinctions between data papers, data deposits, and traditional research articles can be blurry in terms of how they describe datasets and their creation, as a recent article in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology suggests. But at their core, most data journals aim to make data permanent, by way of being preserved in the journal’s archives; peer-reviewed through the journal’s normal workflows; and citable, thanks to well-established norms for citing published research (whereas citation standards for data in repositories, for example, are frequently negotiable or in flux.)

A 2015 survey counted over 100 data journals publishing across all disciplines, a number that has fluctuated since then as new data journals open and established ones close (including the merger of Genomics Data with Data in Brief, two health sciences data journals mentioned in an HSLS Update 2014 article on this topic). As with digital-only journals, however, this occasional instability should not be a cause of undue concern: trustworthy journals (data or otherwise) generally continue to make their archives available according to best practices.

Interested in getting started using or submitting to data journals? This short list includes some of the biggest data journals, as well as smaller journals with a health sciences focus:

If you have questions about selecting an appropriate journal for publishing your dataset, send an e-mail to HSLS Data Services.

~Helenmary Sheridan