Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Committing to Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences

A new initiative joins together publishers and data facilities to enable data stewardship.

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At a time when stewardship of Earth and space science data requires increased collaboration, a new initiative will join together major Earth and space science publishers, including the American Geophysical Union (AGU), with primary Earth and space science data repositories and related consortia. To mark the launch of the partnership, key publishers and repositories signed a joint statement of commitment, which makes the case for collaboration as follows:

Scholarly publication is a key high-value entry point in making data available, open, discoverable, and usable. Most publishers have statements related to the inclusion or release of data as part of publication, recognizing that inclusion of the full data enhances the value and is part of the integrity of the research. Unfortunately, the vast majority of data submitted along with publications are in formats and forms of storage that makes discovery and reuse difficult or impossible.…Connecting scholarly publication more firmly with data facilities thus has many advantages for science in the 21st century and is essential in meeting the aspirations of open, available, and useful data envisioned in the position statements and funder guidelines.

AGU has long emphasized in its position statement on data that “Earth and space sciences data bases are a world heritage” and data preservation “is an integral responsibility of scientists and sponsoring institutions.” Beyond promoting replicability and integrity in science, such data foster further scientific advances and are increasingly critical in addressing numerous societal issues.

The benefits of widespread availability of data have long been clear—AGU’s data position statement dates to 1997; however, the ease of generating and collecting diverse types of scientific data has increased the challenges of organizing, describing, and curating that data and ensuring its quality. The domain data facilities provide key capabilities and services that are essential in addressing these challenges. Further motivating the collaboration are recent open data statements, policies, and mandates of many governments.

Groups with Shared Interests in Data Stewardship

The statement of commitment and several other steps described below arose from recent meetings, supported by the National Science Foundation and several major societies, aimed at bringing together key groups with many shared interests in data stewardship.

Meeting attendees agreed that four essential groups need to be linked effectively:

  1. Researchers. Researchers collect data and analyze collected data, enrich and transform it, and organize it for publications and further research.
  2. Publishers and host institutions. This group ensures that data are available to support the integrity of publications and claims therein; most now collect the organized data from authors and host data supplements associated with many or most papers.
  3. Domain repositories. These repositories provide quality and standards, enriching and organizing data from multiple sources to facilitate new discoveries. They are in many ways the best stewards of the data but are not currently well connected with most publishers, and many data are thus not finding their proper home.
  4. Funders and agencies. These entities provide the financial and infrastructure support to researchers and many repositories; they value useful and reusable data and publications as tangible outcomes of that support.

Goals of the Joint Venture

The overall goals of the meetings were to connect these communities functionally

  • to foster consensus and consistency among publishers, editors, funders, and data repositories on how data that are part of scholarly publications should be curated and published
  • to help data repositories collect the data that are within their scope more easily and comprehensively and raise their visibility
  • to help authors properly submit their data to repositories up front by simplifying the data submission process and providing sufficient information about it
  • to help journals, funding agencies, and the research community by doing all of the above

These meetings built on several years of efforts by one of us (K.L.) through the Editors Roundtable, which regularly brought together editors of geochemistry journals and produced a policy recommendation for publication of geochemical data [Goldstein et al., 2014].

Collectively, we hope that these efforts help identify and promulgate leading practices, improving the integrity of data associated with publication.

Developing Partnerships

The meetings produced several outcomes, with initial steps indicated in the statement of commitment. The publishers, data facilities, and consortia formed a working group, the Coalition on Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences. The coalition discussed and began scoping a functional directory of repositories that can be used by journals as part of their information to authors and by authors to identify rapidly which repositories are the best homes for specific data types and how to structure such deposition.

Together, we committed to better recognition of researchers and to help track the reuse of data by providing, where possible, links and citations to data. We also formed a working group to organize and index training information and resources regarding data and methods, many of which are provided by the repositories. Another working group among publishers formed to discuss and align data policies.

Toward Open Data

Proper stewardship of data is essential in meeting the aspirations of more open data in science. Connecting researchers, publishers, and repositories better and facilitating deposition is necessary for that stewardship.

Identifying and filling an institutional gap by creating this coalition reflect expanded capability in the Earth and space sciences for key stakeholders to join together and have an increased collective impact. The coalition hopes that this community-driven effort will provide a useful model for other disciplines and welcomes further partners and signatories. For further information, to join this effort, or to help, please contact us.



Goldstein, S. L., et al. (2014), Requirements for the publication of geochemical data, Integr. Earth Data Appl., Palisades, N. Y., doi:10.1594/IEDA/100426.

Author Information

—Brooks Hanson, Director, Publications, AGU; email: [email protected]; Kerstin Lehnert, Integrated Earth Data Applications, EarthChem, and Earth and Space Sciences Informatics Focus Group, AGU; Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, School of Labor and Employment Relations and National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana

Citation: Hanson, B., K. Lehnert, and J. Cutcher-Gershenfeld (2015), Committing to publishing data in the Earth and space sciences, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO022207.



© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0