NPG experiments look at community research practice

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Nature Publishing Group (NPG) is conducting two experiments to help to improve best practices for pre-publication data sharing and drafting of community standards in the genomics research community. The experiments are being carried out by Nature Genetics and Nature Precedings.

The first experiment is attempting to address the issues that arose from a 2009 Nature article, about a data release workshop, which gave recommendations for prepublication data sharing. The issues that arose included ensuring that data is available to the community before publication and giving researchers credit for the rapid release of data generated in large-scale reference projects prior to publication.

Pre-publication data sharing is the practice of making data publicly available for use by other scientists before the data-producing scientists have had a chance to publish on the data themselves. The National Human Genome Research Institute-funded Human Microbiome Project, Nature Precedings and Nature Genetics are collaborating to pilot a community experiment to encourage pre-publication data sharing on Nature Precedings.

The second experiment is in community standards. According to NPG, standards documents are often authored by small groups, and may or may not be distributed widely within the community prior to formal announcement of the standard. This can lead to problems with compliance even with those standards that are later widely accepted in the research community. The company hopes that stable, citable archives such as Nature Precedings can help streamline the drafting of standards documents with ongoing community feedback.

As part of this experiment, Nature Genetics has commissioned a perspective on standards of functional analysis that build upon genome-wide association studies of cancer. The draft is currently open for community review as a preprint on Nature Precedings. Substantial contributions will earn co-authorship credit. NPG hopes that this process will lead to a more robust set of criteria with broader consensus in the community and widespread adoption.