Overview of policy types from the Science journals in the sample

Policy Types – Science Publications

From an analysis, the following sections represent various different policy types represented in the sample of Science publications.

Integral – Data/Materials/Software (Integral to your article)

Various policies talk about the data, materials and software etc that have been generated or used in the study, which would be integral to the study findings and necessary for subsequent study replication/verification purposes or to enable other researchers to build on the findings. These are illustrated below.

1. Data Release and Materials Release Policies


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: Genome Research (Top Science)

This is a clearly laid out and extensive ‘Life Science’ type policy denoting that it is a condition of publication of the journal that materials required to replicate the work must be made freely available – this principle needs to be agreed to on acceptance. Data should also be made as freely accessible as possible prior to publication. There are clear guidelines about the location of materials and a whole set of weblinks are given for the locations of the following types of material:

  • Sequence data
  • Genotype/Phenotype and genomic variation data
  • Microarray data
  • Proteomics and molecular interactions

Accession numbers must be included in the abstract. The policy says that if reasonable requests are not honoured then researchers should contact the Editor

BioMed Central: Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine (Bottom Science)

In the Instructions for Authors, the following data types are listed in their policy under ‘Data and Materials release’; these are also fairly typical for Life Science disciplines:

  • Nucleotide Sequences
  • Protein Sequences
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Structures
  • Chemical structures and assays
  • Functional genomics data (such as microarray, RNA-seq or ChIP-seq data)
  • Computational Modelling
  • Plasmids

Each data type specifies the named databases for storing the data and gives weblinks for ease of access. Appropriate external guidelines for the data are given where appropriate such as MIAME. These materials are classed as “readily reproducible” and are to be made “freely available to any scientist wishing to use them for non-commercial purposes”. This ‘life science’ type policy only seems unusual in its timescale for inclusion of the Accession Number – which is in time to be included in the published article (rather than say with the submitted manuscript).

Cell Press :  A range of publications including e.g. Cell (Top Science)

Cell Press publications have a ‘Distribution of Materials and Data’ section which states that it is a term and condition of publishing for authors to be willing to distribute any materials (cells, DNA, antibodies, reagents, organisms, mouse strains, ES cells) and protocols. Structures should also have their relevant information lodged with named or appropriate databases. MIAME guidelines should be followed as appropriate. Authors should contribute additional data/materials to appropriate databases and repositories. Accession numbers are required.

The Royal Society of Chemistry: Chemical Society Reviews (Top Science)

RSC journals have very comprehensive guidelines for both single crystal and powder diffraction data.  In the case of the former, authors should prepare their work in CIF (Crystallographic Information File) format. For single crystal work, structural information should be deposited with the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) and upon submission of the manuscript the CCDC reference numbers will be requested. Powder diffraction data may be submitted as a CIF file via the RSC submissions service.

Nature Publishing Group (includes all journals published by Nature which have Nature in the title)

NPG has very full guidelines for ‘Availability of data and materials’, ‘Sharing Materials’, and ‘Sharing data sets’. They refer to various named repositories and databases for many types of materials and data. Guidelines such as MIAME are noted. There is also a comprehensive Further Reading list which encompasses Nature Journal editorials on these topics. http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/availability.html

2. Data/Materials Sharing as the ‘Ethical Guidelines’ of the discipline

Several publishers/publications refer to ‘ethical  guidelines’ which are part of the landscape of the discipline concerned. Professional conduct means that data/materials should be made available for appropriate researchers to allow for further analysis and review.

 American Chemical Society: Chemical Reviews (Top Science)

The American Chemical Society publishes a number of journals and has created a set of “Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research”. Authors wishing to publish in journals such as Chemical Reviews are expected to follow these ethical guidelines. Part of the ‘Ethical Obligations of Authors’ states that “When requested, the authors should make every reasonable effort to provide data, methods, and samples of unusual materials……. to other researchers” and “Authors are encouraged to submit their data to a public database, where available”.

American Physical Society: Reviews of Modern Physics (Top Science)

See Under:  Ethics and Values (Guidelines for Professional Conduct) – Research Results:

“The results of research should be recorded and maintained in a form that allows analysis and review”

Elsevier: (e.g.  Progress in Polymer Science – Top Science)

Ethics in Research Publication – Data access and retention:

“Authors may be asked to provide the raw data in connection with a paper for editorial review, and should be prepared to provide public access to such data (consistent with the ALPSP-STM Statement on Data and Databases), if practicable, and should in any event be prepared to retain such data for a reasonable time after publication.

3. Data Sharing – not necessarily mandatory

BMJ Group – British Medical Journal (Top Science)

Authors are ‘encouraged’ to link their articles to external databases (no hosting to be done by BMJ) and then include a ‘data sharing statement’ at the end of the manuscript. This statement should state if data sharing is available or not, and if it is, where to obtain the information. BMJ is also interested in the informed consent of the research participants and reference to this should also be made in the statement.

Data sharing is thus not mandatory to the journal, but the journal recognises that it could be mandatory according to certain funders etc.

4. Database Linking – connecting with external databases

Elsevier – Current Opinion in Cell Biology (Top Science)

In the Author Information Pack, Elsevier draw attention to linking to external databases that help to build a better understanding of the described research:

“Elsevier encourages authors to connect articles with external databases”.

This is very vague, and is rather more ‘encouraging’ than ‘mandatory’.

 Nature Reviews – e.g. Neuroscience, Molecular Cell Biology (Top Science)

Nature Reviews are journals which publish reviews of existing data in different fields in any case – “Proteins, protein domains, genes and diseases are linked to specific pages in relevant and high-quality public databases”.

 5. Links to materials on an authors’ institutional website

American Physiological Society: Physiological Reviews (Top Science)

This journal permits one of the authors to provide a working URL from their institutional website (links to additional datasets and/or detailed methods and protocols) which is to be given in an Endnote in the manuscript – under the proviso that it is recognised that this material is not peer-reviewed and may be updated from time to time. It is for readers seeking to replicate or expand on the work.

Supplementary Materials

Supplementary materials are frequently of the request/suggest type and are lodged with the journal – they are mainly of the ‘enhancing your article type’ and often include multimedia. There are, however, exceptions to this general idea of article ‘enhancement’ as some of the supplementary materials could actually be classed as ‘integral’ to the article’s findings.

1. Request/Suggest type – and happy to accept it – usually submitted with the manuscript – published with the journal

Essentially similar to those which are prevalent in the Social Sciences – especially where the publisher is the same (e.g. Springer Publications such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, India Section B: Biological Sciences – Bottom Science).

Cell Press (See for example Immunity – Top Science)

They see ‘supplemental information’ as a useful resource, but recognise that it needs to be managed by structure and limits. The material is considered to be “additional or secondary support for the main conclusions” (thus implying not of the integral type). They require information to be submitted according to three headings: 1. Supplemental Data, 2. Supplemental Experimental Procedures, 3. Supplemental References. They give file formats and sizes. Alongside this, Immunity also has a Distribution of Materials and Data policy. Immunity is one of the journals to have more than one data policy.

Annual Reviews (See for example Astronomy and Astrophysics – Top Science)

A comprehensive ‘Supplemental Materials Policy’.  Preparation guidelines are provided, along with acceptable and unacceptable file types. This material is to be “supportive but not primary”.

Nature publications (e.g. Cell Biology – Top Science)

Supplementary information is not copy-edited, modifications after publication require a formal correction, guidelines are to be followed for it or publication may be delayed, each piece of supplementary material must be referred to at least once in the text of the main article. There is a comprehensive set of guidelines for SI.

The Lancet (e.g. Infectious Diseases, Neurology – Top Science)

Unlike other publications which refer to ‘supplementary’ or ‘supplemental’ material, publications by The Lancet tend to refer to ‘Guidelines for web extra material’, however these refer to fairly standard things such as text, tables, data, drug names, references, figures, and audio/video material. It is preferred that this material is submitted as one PDF with the paper, and it will be peer-reviewed.

The American Astronomical Society: Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

The AAS have a policy on machine readable tables (MRT) whereby lengthy tables should be moved to MRT format. There are full guidelines about this.

2. Hosting this material is new to us

The Canadian Field Naturalist (Bottom Science) – “Supplementary Material”

“Supplementary material is a new feature for CFN so we do not know which file formats can and cannot be accepted; please consult our journal Manager with any question about specific formats”

This journal is just starting out on the process and has yet to clarify its procedures.

3. Supporting Information – but ‘essential’ or ‘central’ for understanding the main points of the article – with journal

Wiley Online Library: Angewandte Chemie International Edition (Top Science)

From the ‘Supporting Information’ section – here, although the information is classed under the heading of ‘supporting’, it is actually deemed ‘essential to understanding the article and includes “experimental procedures, spectroscopic data, graphics etc”, rather than just enhancing the article. There is a blurring here of supporting material with integral material. This is interesting here as the same journal also has a policy about Crystal Structure Analysis, in that Crystallographic data should not be sent as Supporting Information but should be lodged with the named Data Centres and deposition numbers must be supplied with the manuscript.

American Society of Clinical Oncology: Journal of Clinical Oncology (Top Science)

This journal “requires that large data sets central to the premise of a manuscript be submitted along with the original work as a supplemental file”. It does also state that data which can be submitted to a public database should be deposited and accession numbers provided.

 4. Supplementary Information – which should not be the sole evidence for the article

Wiley Online Library: Ecology Letters (Top Science)

From  the ‘Online Supplementary Information’ section – the journal clearly states that “the material published on the internet cannot be used as sole evidence for the print version of the article”. This implies that more integral data – the evidence base for the findings – should also be available elsewhere.

5. Supplemental Materials – only at the Editor’s discretion

Wiley Online Library: CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians (Top Science)

This journal states that Supplemental Materials presented as Appendices are not permitted and should be placed within the manuscript or eliminated. Supplemental materials are published at the Editor’s discretion. This journal is not really encouraging concerning the use of supplementary materials.

American Society for Microbiology: Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews

The Supplemental Material section states “Please avoid supplemental material”. It is an Editorial decision if any is to be published.

6. Supplementary Information – carefully controlling the volume of SI

Nature: Neuroscience, Immunology  (Top Science)

This publisher suggests with respect to these journals that since SI is proliferating and can be unwieldy “we have therefore decided to carefully control the volume of Supplementary Information”

New Data – Which is the Actual Publication itself


 IngenieraQuimica – Chemical Engineering (Bottom Social Science):

Under their ‘Write for the Site’ section they include:

“Post, articles, images related to chemical engineering, software or spreadsheets that you have prepared.”  Here the data to be shared becomes the article.


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