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The Arrival of Data Journals: an interview with Lyubomir Penev of Pensoft Publishers

June 19, 2012

A reality of 21st century science is that publications and citations are key metrics used to evaluate the performance and impact of scientists. Until recently, there has been no incentive for work -pressured scientists (other than good will) to invest time in preparing their data sets so they can be shared and used by others. With the launch of journals specializing in the publication of data papers this looks set to change. Data papers, can perhaps be compared to those reporting a new taxon: they will have a standard format and users of the data set will cite the data paper in a similar manner to how scientists cite the authority (descriptor paper) when using a scientific name. In this way, scientists contributing data to the common scientific endeavor will gain a publication credit and the number of citations will provide a measure of the scientific value of the data.

Lyubomir Penev of Pensoft Publishers has launched several innovative journals in biodiversity science, including an established infrastructure for publishing and dissemination of biodiversity data, and he kindly provided the following perspectives on the value and importance of data journals.

Biofresh Blog: What motivated you to launch a family of innovative journals for the publication and dissemination of biodiversity information?

Lyubomir Penev: The main motivation is perhaps that, as a biodiversity scientist, I have often been disappointed with the speed and manner with which conventional journals handle manuscripts and data. I was even more disappointed with the dissemination of published results, which are often hidden behind a pay-wall barrier with restrictions for copyright and use. Our journals build on three important pillars, namely open access, high-tech XML-based editorial workflow, and active dissemination of the results we publish for our authors.

BB: Why do you think scientists should make the effort to submit data papers: what’s in it for them?
LP: There are many benefits here and they are certainly not restricted to the authors of data papers alone. First, data collectors, managers and authors will be properly credited through a permanent scientific record, priority registration and citation of the data paper. Second, the extended metadata associated with a data set will be properly described and published in order to make data easy to share, use and re-use for others scientists. Sharing data will open new perspectives for collaboration with other scientific groups and institution. Last but not least, re-use of original and collated data sets will tremendously increase the efficiency of public funds investments in gathering all these data!

BB: To what extent do you think data journals will change the way we do Science?
LP: The change will be dramatic and extremely useful in my opinion. The appearance of new data visualization and analysing tools will lead to an ever increasing interest in inter-operability and collation of data with compatible data gathered by other groups. This should provide exciting new views and produce better proven scientific results.

The titles of journals in the Pensoft family include ZooKeys (systematic zoology, phylogeny and biogeography), PhytoKeys (systematic botany), NeoBiota (alien species), and Nature Conservation. A similar initiative is Dataset Papers in Ecology.

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