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What does a Data paper look like?

June 29, 2012

Making datasets discoverable through the metadatabase and publishing them on-line is one of the main aims of the BioFresh project. Pensoft Publishers recently started calling for data papers based on primary biodiversity datasets published to GBIF (Penev et al. 2011). BioFresh partners have several in preparation and the practice of publishing data papers seems set to become normal practice.

So what is a ‘metadata paper’ or ‘database paper’? Well as the terms suggest it is a paper that focuses on the description of a database. Such papers could be conceived as either a pure description of the dataset for publication in a specialized journal or as a more extensive scientific article giving a broader insight in the database which might be targeted at a regular scientific journal. A “pure” data paper might be limited to an abstract published in a scientific journal together with descriptive and technical metadata. In such cases the actual data files would be made available on-line, as is the case of the papers in the Ecological Society of America’s Ecological archive, or via data portals such as GBIF. However, it is expected that in addition to describing the data content, data papers will include sections summarizing the history of the data set (e.g. original purpose, mode and time of generation, funding body etc.) and its perceived value and usefulness to scientific research (fundamental and/or applied). (see two examples below).

If you want to get into data publishing, and we encourage you to do so, nice examples of data papers are by Jones et al (2009) on mammals and Brose etal (2005) on body sizes. Pensoft Publishing has produced useful data publishing policies and guidelines and GBIFs integrated publishing tool (IPT) offers a facility to generate a draft paper outline containing the metadata information of the dataset. BioFresh is currently adding similar export functions to the BioFresh metadatabase.

Example Data Papers
Jones et al. (2009). PanTHERIA: a species-level database of life history, ecology, and geography of extant and recently extinct mammals. (W. K. Michener, Ed.) Ecology, Ecological Archives E090-184, 90(9), 2648–2648. Ecological Society of America.
Brose et al. (2005). Body sizes of consumers and their resources. Ecology 86:2545.
Penev, L., Mietchen, D., Chavan, V., & Hagedorn, G. (2011). Pensoft Data Publishing Policies

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