Open Science

“Open science needs open minds”

Research Data Alliance meeting draws 500+ — and Elsevier announces its Open Data pilot

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In a typical lab on any given day, researchers will be noting down their latest observations and calculations, in a notepad or perhaps in an Excel spreadsheet. They are recording their data, and in today's world, this is becoming an increasingly valuable source of information. Sharing of data is key to making scientific findings reproducible and to enable scientists to build upon these findings – sometimes in truly novel and unexpected ways when data is re-used for purposes that the original contributor may have never thought of.

See more RDA Plenary Cartoons by Auke Herrema.However, there are real challenges around posting, hosting, managing and discovering research data. This means that stakeholders – including researchers, librarians, publishers, data centers, funding agencies and policymakers – need to work together to build a global infrastructure which will enable research data to be stored, shared, discovered and used to its maximum potential.

Addressing the many challenges around research data in a constructive, head-on manner was the goal of the recent Research Data Alliance (RDA) Fourth Plenary Meeting in Amsterdam – and the inspiration behind the new Open Data pilot at Elsevier.

European Commission VP Neelie Kroes, who served as EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, had a clear message for the participants: "Open science needs open minds."

Around 500 delegates from around the world convened at this event to address key challenges to enabling the open sharing of research data. This fourth plenary meeting, co-organized by the Dutch Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) and sponsored by Elsevier, was themed as "Reaping the fruits" because the first concrete outputs from the RDA Working Groups were presented at this meeting.

Dr. Barend Mons, Professor in Bio-Semantics Group at Leiden University Medical Center and Head of Node of ELIXIR-NL, addressed this topic in his keynote speech "Bringing Data to Broadway." He presented the FAIR principles for comment by all parties involved in the management of data. These principles propose that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable (FAIR). The principles are now available to read and comment on from the FORCE11 website. Other keynote speakers included Robert Jan Smits, Director General DG Research, European Commission, and Christine L. Borgman, Professor Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA. Their messages were clear: building a research data infrastructure is not an easy task, and will require coordinated effort from all of the stakeholders involved.

Elsevier's involvement in open data

Addressing the challenges around research data requires a joint effort across the scientific landscape. Elsevier's commitment to data started in 2007, when Elsevier, together with many other STM publishers, signed the Brussels Declaration stating that "Raw research data should be made freely available to all researchers." It is important to us because we want to support researchers to disseminate their research results, including their research data. In fact, there is a unique relationship between research data and the published literature. On one hand, research data underpins the published findings, and conversely articles provide both context and interpretation that helps understanding and re-use of data. As such, Elsevier is supporting researchers to store, share, discover, and use data – for example by creating bidirectional links between articles and data, by launching data journals, and by promoting proper data citation standards.

Elsevier's Open Data pilot

Olivier DumonDuring the RDA event, Olivier Dumon, Elsevier's Managing Director of Research Applications & Platform, announced another concrete example of how Elsevier is supporting researchers in making their data accessible with a new pilot: Open Data. This service provides authors with the option to upload their raw research data as a supplementary file. Upon acceptance of the article Elsevier will publish the data file open access alongside the article on ScienceDirect. There is no charge for authors or readers, and reuse is determined by the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY user license, with the data set being permanently stored and archived.

How does open data work?

  1. At the submission phase, authors upload their raw research data as a supplementary material and classify the file as "raw research data," which is validated after submission.
  2. After acceptance, the data file is made available open access to both subscribers and non-subscribers to view and download from ScienceDirect under a CC BY user license.

Research data has a lot of interconnected issues, covering technological but also social aspects, and with many different stakeholders. At Elsevier we play our part in this and are part of the alliance that is building the future of research data. We are doing that by working hand-in-hand with scientists, librarians and policymakers and through our continued participation in RDA. We will continue along this path and work with research community to build solutions that work — that help people share data, discover data, and use data more effectively.


Seeking your feedback

We encourage input. You can reach us via or find out more by visiting our research data webpage.

What is the Research Data Alliance?

Established in 2013, the Research Data Alliance (RDA) (@resdatall) is an international group of people from academia, industry and government who have formed a series of working and interest groups designed to address the challenges of enabling sharing research data across different technologies, disciplines, and countries. This bottom-up approach has been built on openness, consensus, balance and harmonization, includes topics like citation, provenance, metadata standards, metrics, interoperability, and quality of research data, and has a community-driven and nonprofit approach.

Elsevier Connect Contributors

Hylke Koers, PhDDr. Hylke Koers is the Head of Content Innovation at Elsevier, leading a team that is responsible for enhancing the online article format to better capture and present modern-day research. Part of Elsevier's Article of the Future program, this includes improved online presentation, better support and visualization of digital content, and contextualization of the article by linking with data repositories and other sources of trusted scientific content on the web.

Before joining Elsevier in 2010, Hylke received a PhD in theoretical astrophysics from the University of Amsterdam and served as a postdoctoral research associate at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He is based in Amsterdam.

Rachel MartinRachel Martin (@rachelcmartin) is the Universal Access Communications Manager at Elsevier, based in Amsterdam. She is responsible for helping to communicate Elsevier's progress in areas such as open access, philanthropic access programs and access technologies.

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