Volume 87 Issue 30 | p. 15 | News of The Week
Issue Date: July 27, 2009

Protecting Digital Data

National Academies' report calls for more data stewardship
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: scientific data, Research, Digital technologies

Digital technologies have allowed scientists to create an enormous amount of data that can be intricately processed by computer and stored in various electronic databases. At the same time, these capabilities have made it difficult to ensure the accuracy and completeness of data.

Now, the National Academies has released a report that provides guidelines to ensure that scientific data in the digital era continue to be valid.

"The report proposes general principles and makes recommendations that researchers, institutions, journals, and sponsors need to consider to ensure the integrity, accessibility, and stewardship of digital research data," says Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor at MIT's David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and cochair of the Academies committee that wrote the report. Among these recommendations are that researchers should be better educated in the use of digital data and that the contributions of data professionals be recognized, he says.

The report was prepared at the request of a number of scientific organizations, federal agencies, and foundations. It bases its recommendations on three main principles. First, researchers themselves are ultimately responsible for ensuring the integrity of their research data. Second is that data, methods, and other information integral to publicly reported results should be publicly accessible. And third, research data should be documented, referenced, and indexed so others can find them for future use.

The American Chemical Society, publisher of Chemical & Engineering News and one of the study's sponsors, considers promoting the stewardship of data to be an extremely important issue.

"ACS has in place quite comprehensive ethical guidelines for publication of chemical research," says Brian Crawford, president of the ACS Publications Division. "We will determine, in consultation with our editors, whether provisions for data integrity and stewardship should be elaborated on in greater detail, building on the recommendations of this study."

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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