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Proposal to establish a data publishing journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD)

by Hans Pfeiffenberger, AWI in cooperation with Copernicus/EGU

A growing number of researchers, making use of technical capabilities and infrastructures with exponentially growing data output rates, produce a correspondingly growing avalanche of datasets and derived information. It is a challenge central to the advancement of science that this avalanche is not underutilized at present and not lost for future generations.

However, in many disciplines of the Earth Sciences, researchers are reluctant to allow use or re-use of data they collected. There are many plausible reasons for this attitude. The most forceful argument encountered appears to be that others could profit from the arduous work done, without giving back due credit to the creator of data. The technical availability of means to refer to the data, and their creator, even by persistent digital identifiers, does not eliminate the concern that this would simply not be done in a satisfactory manner.

This is, of course, due to the non-existence of “universally” accepted standards for the publication and citation of data, which would be regarded as part of good scientific practice. The lack of this standard also leads to the question of the evaluation of individuals and organizations: Publication of data, however valuable, in most cases does not lead to recognition in evaluations and rankings.

A solution to this situation will be provided by founding a new, Open Access journal for peer reviewed publication of data from Earth Science disciplines. Given any adherence to rules of good scientific conduct, it should not be too difficult to achieve a significant impact factor and thus a better formal basis for recognition. It is to be expected that this recognition will lead to a much improved - and open - access to data.

Another problem with scientific primary data is, that they are less thoroughly treated than the interpretations based on them. Journals, e.g., Nature, see themselves unfit to subject data to their peer-review process [1]. Data centers or repositories judge metadata quality and other technical parameters, only, and generally do not have a recognized procedure for quality control of data content.

[1] E. Marris „Should journals police scientific fraud?”, Nature 439(2006), 520- 521 doi:10.1038/439520a

We proposed here to establish a journal „Earth System Science Data and Methods“.

This new journal, to be published by Copernicus Publications, will undertake to solve both problems by applying well known procedures of peer review and publication to data. ESSDM will use Copernicus' well known and established two stage (public discussion and peer) review [2].

The journal and its publisher will not themselves hold the data but let authors refer to the datasets in certified repositories using persistent identifiers. The editorial board will determine criteria for acceptance, which will certainly include completeness of documentation, plausibility, usability and significance of the dataset(s) and methods being submitted. Criteria and methods of review may vary by discipline.

[2] As an example, see Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics


The build-up of a sound, global, multidisciplinary data infrastructure is needed as the foundation of data driven science, i.e.: for reuse and new combinations of existing data. This is especially true of the Earth System Science, where it is needed, e.g. to keep track of Global Change or to find correlations between (geo-)physical and ecological or economic dynamics.

Peer review of data by way of a journal, analogous to review of traditional articles, as an element of a science data infrastructure, will establish ß a baseline assertion of quality, credibility, accessibility and usability for the growing legacy of primary data, to help the (re-)using scientist ß a basis for a measurable impact of published data, thus justifying effort and expenses for publishing and curating of data ß a traditional means of establishing recognition and reputation for the contributing scientist and thus, incentive to publish

„Earth System Science Data and Methods”, when first issued early in 2008, will take a leading position and inspire more new developments and be (one of) the first data publishing journal(s), providing a solution for pressing needs of science.

Aims and Scope

Earth System Science Data (ESSD) is an international, interdisciplinary journal for the publication of articles on original research data(sets), furthering the reuse of high (reference) quality data of benefit to Earth system sciences. The editors encourage submissions on original data or data collections which are of sufficient quality and potential impact to contribute to these aims.

The journal maintains sections for regular length articles, brief communications (e.g., on additions to datasets) and commentary as well as review articles and "Special Issues".

Articles in the data section may pertain to the planning, instrumentation and execution of experiments or collection of data. Any interpretation of data is outside the scope of regular articles. Articles on methods describe nontrivial statistical and other methods employed, e.g. to filter, normalize or convert raw data to primary, published data as well as nontrivial instrumentation or operational methods. Any comparison to or methods is out of scope of regular articles. Review articles may compare methods or relative merits of datasets, the fitness of individual methods or datasets for specify purposes or how a combination might be used as more complex methods or reference data collection.