The software development site GitHub is increasingly being used by researchers to share, contribute to, and update scientific datasets, Nature News reports.
For instance, it notes that during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Caitlin Rivers, then at Virginia Tech, used the site to store and share data she converted from pdfs from affected countries' health ministries into machine-readable files. Similarly, it adds that University of Birmingham's Nick Loman has been using the site as part of his Zika in Brazil Real Time Analysis project that's collecting and sequencing viral samples from across Brazil. Loman tells Nature News that the data his project is producing will be deposited in an archive like GenBank, but that GitHub offers an easier way to distribute draft datasets.
Since GitHub was designed for open collaboration, it has version-control software that tracks changes that various contributors make, but as Nature News notes, that also means that the files aren't static and it isn't a permanent, citable archive. It adds that there are other drawbacks such as a confusing workflow and that it doesn't work well with all types of data.
Still, the University of California, Merced's Emily Jane McTavish, who is part of the Open Tree of Life project tell Nature News: "I don't know how I lived without it."