Nature Publishing Group is launching a new data journal called “Scientific Data”. The editorial announcement in nature invites submissions of “data descriptors” to the journal, which are described as:
Data Descriptor articles are fully fledged, peer-reviewed scientific publications, and will be listed in major indexing services, thereby giving authors the credit they deserve for sharing their data and making it usable by others. All Data Descriptors will be released under a Creative Commons licence that allows researchers to reuse, redistribute and remix the articles’ content.
What I liked is that they state that Scientific Data will not be a data repository and work together with existing repositories, but that the focus is rather on ensuring that the data collection meets certain (I hope high) standards.
Peer reviewers of Data Descriptors will focus on the technical rigour of the data-collection procedures, the completeness of the data and alignment with existing community standards. They will check that the data are indeed worth sharing, but will specifically be asked not to base their evaluations on the perceived impact or novelty of the findings associated with the data sets. Scientific Data’s editors have already conducted peer review of a small set of prototype Data Descriptor manuscripts, and have found that scientists adapt quickly to this different peer-review perspective.
I think this type of review for data is not only useful because it ensures a certain quality of data that is released to the community, but it is potentially also an additional safeguard for publications, in the sense that, as a reviewer, I have to worry less about the quality of the data that is used in a study if I know that this data has already been screened in a data journal. To be fair, Nature is of course not the first publishing company or society to come up with the idea of data papers, Ecology has a section for that, copernicus is running a data journal called Earth System Science Data, and for sure there are more. However, a bit of competition is certainly not wrong, plus, I would hope that the reputation gain from publishing with Nature might motivate more people to share their data, which is of course a good thing.