Some recent buzz in Public Data Access

Blogpost by Sam Rund

In September, the Editor-in-Chief of JGR: Oceans, Peter Brewer, wrote a provocatively titled blog post, “Do You Expect Me to Just Give Away My Data?,” in which he stated:

“When you publish a research paper, you are also simultaneously publishing the data that supports your work. The readers of your article have equal rights to see both the words and the numbers – they are inseparable.”

Brewer then went on to ask:

“But what constitutes “data”? What about the raw instrument readings? What about the calibration runs? What about all the model code? etc, etc.”

As vector biologists, we are in a very different field (Brewer is an ocean chemist), but his question is still a good one for us to ponder. It is also exactly the kind of question that the VectorBite working group, VectorBite Open-access vector science: Data acquisition and use, is working on addressing. Indeed, our minimal standards document begins to address this question for our field: who collected the data, when was it collected, how was it collected, what is it (taxonomy), how was it identified, etc. Look for a draft coming soon!

Closer to our field, in October, Maryam Zaringhalam currently an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Library of Medicine, published a Blog Post titled, “Scooped! A very personal case for open science” where she reports the tale of how she was ‘scooped,’ on a project looking for the RNA modification pseudouridine sites, “. . . or, to be more precise, the first four times I got scooped —all in the span of one month.”

Dr. Zaringhalam went on to explain that while this was devastating (she was a graduate student at the time), it was an excellent example of one benefit of Public Data Access.  She took the four published reports, retrieved the archived data, performed new reanalysis, and found of the 450 sites listed between the four works – only two overlapped.

“I offered technical and biological explanations for the variability, but the fact remained that these techniques, published in high-impact journals, would likely result in false leads and dead ends in the quest to understand the biological role of pseudouridine.”

Zaringhalam’s story highlights the utility of having results replicated across labs and the need for open access data as a scientific “double-check” to confirm findings and allow other researchers to re-analyze.

With October 23-29 designated as Open Access Week, it seems fitting to open the discussion on open access in the VectotBite community. Comment on the post with your experiences using open access data for vector research or learn more at and at figshare’s “State of Open Data Report”.

On the vector front, VectorBiTE’s Ecoinformatics Data Platform is now online. You can also check out a large dataset of state of Iowa mosquito surveillance records now online here.