PLOS declares authors must publish data with articles

National Research Council. Sharing Research Data . Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1985.In January, I joined the members of the Public Health Research Data Forum here in London to present the findings of our research into existing capacity for research data management in low- and medium income countries.

One of the questions we had to answer early was posed by Tom Plewes of the National Academy of Science. He presented a report, written in 1985, with the optimistic title "Sharing Research Data". Just in case you didn't realise how long ago that was, the cover features an only 1.2Mb floppy disk.

The idea of sharing research data has been around a while. What makes the latest wave pushing for access, 30 years later, more likely to succeed?

The answer was the quality of organisations attending, including the Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Wellcome Trust, the Royal Society, DFID, USAID and the US National Academy of Science. 

Collectively, they fund billions of dollars of research and they are asking their grantees to produce the data. We recognised in our research, though, that the publishers are needed as well.

Now PLOS, the largest of the open access journals, has made their intentions clear:

In an effort to increase access to this data, we are now revising our data-sharing policy for all PLOS journals: authors must make all data publicly available, without restriction, immediately upon publication of the article.

This is ground-breaking and wonderful stuff. Sure, many researchers are going to be scrambling to figure out how to go about meeting their requirements, but there are plenty of organisations, and publicly-available research, able to assist.

From 3 March 2014, PLOS will demand that any data, which are "any and all of the digital materials that are collected and analyzed in the pursuit of scientific advances", must be published either in the paper itself, in supporting data hosted by PLOS, or on any public repository that is able to serve a DOI for the data concerned.

The full PLOS Data Policy is here. If this will effect your research publishing and you would like to ask someone about it, please contact us. We are here to help.