Abstract: Many scholarly journals have established their own data-related policies, which specify their enforcement of data sharing, the types of data to be submitted, and their procedures for making data available. However, except for the journal impact factor and the subject area, the factors associated with the overall strength of the data sharing policies of scholarly journals remain unknown. This study examines how factors, including impact factor, subject area, type of journal publisher, and geographical location of the publisher are related to the strength of the data sharing policy.
From each of the 178 categories of the Web of Science’s 2017 edition of Journal Citation Reports, the top journals in each quartile (Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4) were selected in December 2018. Of the resulting 709 journals (5%), 700 in the fields of life, health, and physical sciences were selected for analysis. Four of the authors independently reviewed the results of the journal website searches, categorized the journals’ data sharing policies, and extracted the characteristics of individual journals. Univariable multinomial logistic regression analyses were initially conducted to determine whether there was a relationship between each factor and the strength of the data sharing policy. Based on the univariable analyses, a multivariable model was performed to further investigate the factors related to the presence and/or strength of the policy.
Of the 700 journals, 308 (44.0%) had no data sharing policy, 125 (17.9%) had a weak policy, and 267 (38.1%) had a strong policy (expecting or mandating data sharing). The impact factor quartile was positively associated with the strength of the data sharing policies. Physical science journals were less likely to have a strong policy relative to a weak policy than Life science journals (relative risk ratio [RRR], 0.36; 95% CI [0.17–0.78]). Life science journals had a greater probability of having a weak policy relative to no policy than health science journals (RRR, 2.73; 95% CI [1.05–7.14]). Commercial publishers were more likely to have a weak policy relative to no policy than non-commercial publishers (RRR, 7.87; 95% CI, [3.98–15.57]). Journals by publishers in Europe, including the majority of those located in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, were more likely to have a strong data sharing policy than a weak policy (RRR, 2.99; 95% CI [1.85–4.81]).
These findings may account for the increase in commercial publishers’ engagement in data sharing and indicate that European national initiatives that encourage and mandate data sharing may influence the presence of a strong policy in the associated journals. Future research needs to explore the factors associated with varied degrees in the strength of a data sharing policy as well as more diverse characteristics of journals related to the policy strength.