How the Public Library of Science communicated its recent data-sharing policy changes was unclear, the publisher notes on its blog.
PLOS recently announced that it would be requiring authors to make their data available publicly upon publication of their paper. But one section of their blog post from last month describing the policy drew criticism. In that section, PLOS attempted to describe what data were, and said "[d]ata are any and all of the digital materials that are collected and analyzed in the pursuit of scientific advances." Examples of data offered included next-generation sequencing reads, verbatim answers from qualitative studies, and software code. (This part of the original post is now struck through.)
Blogger DrugMonkey, for instance, argued that the new policy would require researchers to change how they work, take up a lot of time, and lead to data orthodoxy. He adds that the approach also would not address the issue of fraud and the misrepresentation of data.
In its latest blog post, PLOS tries to clear up the confusion. The key point of the policy, that new post says, is that it should be clear where shared data may be found. As for what data should be shared, PLOS says that data needed for others "to understand, validate or replicate the work" should be made available, and researchers should now say where those data are.
"We are aiming to ensure transparency about data availability," PLOS adds.
Retraction Watch applauds the update. "The move looks like the right thing to do. The problem seemed to have stemmed from how the policy was communicated, rather than what PLOS actually wanted to accomplish, which is better data sharing," Ivan Oransky says. "In a time when reproducibility is a growing concern, the latter is a must."