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The Data Behind Research Findings

Posted by Jolanda van der Noll •

 

The Data Behind Research Findings: How You as an Author are Expected to Contribute to Data Transparency

By Ute Gabriel, Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim

 As an author interested in getting data-based research findings published, you should be aware of four principles regarding data transparency:

(1) No raw data – no publication.

During the editorial process it is quite common that reviewers (and editors) require you to report further descriptive statistics or to perform additional analyses. To comply with such a request it is often necessary to go back to the raw data, i.e. the data that has not been subjected to any processing or manipulation such as recoding, filtering, computation of indicators, or deletion of cases. Not being able to do so, for example because you have only kept processed and interpreted data, will lead to your manuscript being rejected. So, take good care of your raw data: you are expected to have them at your disposal throughout the complete editorial review process (and beyond, see point 3).

(2) No re-publishing of already published data as original data.

Originality in this context means that your data (as a whole or in parts) has not yet been published. This does not mean that a paper that is based on previously published data cannot be published at all, but that it is at the discretion of the editors to decide whether prior publication prevents subsequent publication in their journal. It is your duty as an author to inform the editor about any prior publication or concurrent submissions. If you are unsure about whether something counts as being published, contact the editor. Be aware that not being open in this regard is considered highly unethical and will most likely lead to the rejection of the manuscript. An example of how to set up a data transparency narrative and table to accompany your cover letter can be found here.

 (3) Preserve raw data for at least five years after publication.

Your paper was accepted? Great! Celebrate – but be careful when tidying up after the party: although it might appear tempting to clear your desk by using the trash bin, be aware that you are expected to keep your data (raw data) for a minimum of five years after the paper has been published (which is not the same as getting accepted). The verification and replication of research results is required to maintain scientific integrity. You are expected to respond in a cooperative way to requests from colleagues to share data and other material for re-analysis or replication. This does not mean that you must provide all your work as soon as someone asks, but that you are open to come to a mutual agreement on the conditions under which the data will be shared.

(4) If you discover an error in your published data – you correct it.

If you become aware of an error in your data after publication, it is your responsibility as the author to fix this. There are different means to make errors public. The method chosen depends on the extent and significance of the error. Again: contact and inform the editors, so that appropriate steps can be taken.

For more information have a look at Standard 8 (Research and Publication) in APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code in Conduct.

 

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