Sustainability scientists: Make research results available!

By | 25th June 2017
Researchers and stakeholders in sustainability science and industrial ecology in particular often find it difficult to access and re-use the results of quantitative analyses described in the literature. The lack of access to data is part of a wider reproducibility problem in contemporary science [], and several initiatives were started to alleviate the problem, reaching from minimum data supply requirements for journal publications, reward systems for particularly open research articles, and free and open data repositories [].
The International Society for Industrial Ecology, as a representative body of many sustainability scientists, wants to contribute to the solution of the problem, and has convened a task force for data transparency (DTTF), of which I am a member. Over the last six months, we have assessed the benefits and risks of making data easier available, and we have developed a proposal for both, a minimum requirement for publications in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, and a data openness badge for research articles with particularly rich data supply and ease of access to them.
We (the DTTF) find that the current practices of data provision and sharing within industrial ecology should be raised to the next level in order to:
  • Increase the comprehension of the reader of the research being presented
  • Enhance the accumulation of knowledge by facilitating the use of research results, including intermediate results, by other industrial ecologists
  • Speed up progress by quicker accumulation of knowledge, thus making the results of  our work more timely
  • Enable independent verification of results, thus increasing their credibility and quality; and
  • Make the uptake of IE research results by other fields and by decision makers easier, thus increasing the relevance of IE research.
We propose to the community two preliminary actions to advance these goals: (1) a minimum publication requirement for IE research to be adopted by the Journal of Industrial Ecology; and (2) a system of optional badges that recognize increasing levels of transparency and accessibility of data accompanying journal articles. Our intention is that these actions start an inclusive discussion for all within the IE community to engage with and respond to these key concerns of data transparency and accessibility; therefore, they should be treated as being under an active community-led development program.
In particular, we propose making proper citation of all secondary data and databases and delivery of all primary results in spreadsheets or the like as a mandatory requirement for publication.
For the data openness badges, we propose considering the two dimensions data availability (what raw data, intermediate results, and final results are made available) and data accessibility (how easy is it to access and re-use these data?).
You can read the full proposal on the new website of the International Society for Industrial Ecology. In the document you also find a link to a survey where you can provide feedback on the proposal and interact with the community.
This blog post was written with material from the task force proposal.

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