PLOS’ New Data Policy: Public Access to Data

Access to research results, immediately and800px-Open_Data_stickers without restriction, has always been at the heart of PLOS’ mission and the wider Open Access movement. However, without similar access to the data underlying the findings, the article can be of limited use. For this reason, PLOS has always required that authors make their data available to other academic researchers who wish to replicate, reanalyze, or build upon the findings published in our journals.

In an effort to increase access to this data, we are now revising our data-sharing policy for all PLOS journals: authors must make all data publicly available, without restriction, immediately upon publication of the article. Beginning March 3rd, 2014, all authors who submit to a PLOS journal will be asked to provide a Data Availability Statement, describing where and how others can access each dataset that underlies the findings. This Data Availability Statement will be published on the first page of each article.

What do we mean by data?

“Data are any and all of the digital materials that are collected and analyzed in the pursuit of scientific advances.” Examples could include spreadsheets of original measurements (of cells, of fluorescent intensity, of respiratory volume), large datasets such as

next-generation sequence reads, verbatim responses from qualitative studies, software code, or even image files used to create figures. Data should be in the form in which it was originally collected, before summarizing, analyzing or reporting.

What do we mean by publicly available?

All data must be in one of three places:

  • the body of the manuscript; this may be appropriate for studies where the dataset is small enough to be presented in a table
  • in the supporting information; this may be appropriate for moderately-sized datasets that can be reported in large tables or as compressed files, which can then be downloaded
  • in a stable, public repository that provides an accession number or digital object identifier (DOI) for each dataset; there are many repositories that specialize in specific data types, and these are particularly suitable for very large datasets

Do we allow any exceptions?

Yes, but only in specific cases. We are aware that it is not ethical to make all datasets fully public, including private patient data, or specific information relating to endangered species. Some authors also obtain data from third parties and therefore do not have the right to make that dataset publicly available. In such cases, authors must state that “Data is available upon request”, and identify the person, group or committee to whom requests should be submitted. The authors themselves should not be the only point of contact for requesting data.

Where can I go for more information?

The revised data sharing policy, along with more information about the issues associated with public availability of data, can be reviewed in full at:

Image: Open Data stickers by Jonathan Gray

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Going to the ASCB Annual Meeting? PLOS would like to meet you!

MA104 cells labelled with actin (green) and DNA (blue). Image credit: PLoS ONE 7(10): e47612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047612

Are you attending the upcoming Annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology?  Then we want to meet you in person!  PLOS ONE has published thousands of papers in the field of Cell Biology, so we know there must be a lot of PLOS ONE authors out there.  Whether you are an editor, reviewer, author or prospective author, we hope to see you! For more information about where we’ll be and when, please read on.


An evening with the PLOS Editorial Boards:

PLOS is hosting a reception for all Editorial Board members for an evening of food, drink and discussion.  It will be a great opportunity to connect with your fellow Editors, and a few staff Editors will also be on hand.  The highlight of the evening will be speakers Emma Ganley and Jason Swedlow, focusing on the challenges and importance of sharing data in the world of cell biology.

  • Emma Ganley is a Senior Editor on PLOS Biology, with experience in data availability and navigation in online publication. 
  • Jason Swedlow is co-founder of Open Microscopy Environment (OME), and directs his own research group at the University of Dundee.

When: 6 to 8pm , Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where: The Box [link] – 1069 Howard Street (between 6th & 7th), San Francisco, CA 94103

Be sure to RSVP, because space is limited:

Get in touch if you would like further information or have any questions!


Calling all PLOS ONE authors to the PLOS booth in the Exhibition Hall!

Have you published with PLOS ONE?  Come by booth #1322!  We would love to show you your article level metrics in exchange for a t-shirt!  Find out who has cited your work, how many people are using it in their Mendeley library, and the number of times the pdf has been downloaded (among many other things).  PLOS ONE staff will be on hand to discuss the benefits of publishing with PLOS, and to answer all of your questions both specific and general.

We look forward to meeting you!



PLOS meets the American Society of Human Genetics

Last week the staff at PLOS attended the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, held just a mile from our San Francisco office.  If you were able to stop by the exhibition hall, you would have found representatives from

Publications Manager Liz Flavall speaks with one of the Editors on PLOS Genetics about one of our lesser known but very exciting publications, PLOS Currents Evidence on Genomic Tests

various journals at the PLOS booth. It was a great opportunity to connect with readers, authors, editors, reviewers, and a few people who hadn’t heard of us, believe it or not!

We invited authors to look up their published articles in exchange for a PLOS t-shirt – we gave away a lot of t-shirts.  This afforded us the opportunity to show off our new article level metrics (or rather we had the authors show off their own metrics to us).  Many were thrilled to find out just how easy it is to find all articles that had cited their work.  We also had some delightful reactions from those who discovered they had been referenced in Wikipedia.

We also took the opportunity to share and discuss our new Open Access guide: How Open Is It?  Some of the most rewarding conversations were with readers who discovered that all of our articles could be read anywhere, anytime, and that the contents could be freely re-used for research and education.

We had some fantastic discussions with many who are well acquainted with PLOS and its mission.  Members of the PLOS Genetics Editorial board took advantage of our booth as a meeting point to talk to each other and to authors.  We also met some very devoted authors and reviewers, as well as PLOS ONE Editors.  We talked about the future of scientific publishing and open access, and we heard feedback from users on their experiences with PLOS.  If any of you are reading this now, rest assured your feedback has been passed on to the relevant parties.

In December you will be able to find us at the Annual meetings for the American Geophysical Union, and the American Society for Cell Biology.  Hope to see you there!

What is a species?

Drosophila syntheticaHow do we determine whether two animals are of the same species?  It is not enough to judge based on similar appearance: Chihuahuas and Dalmatians look vastly different but we consider these to be the same species (in case you’re wondering the crossbreed is a “Chimatian”).  So where does the boundary fall?  In his book, Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942), famed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr proposed the definitive criteria that are still used today: “groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups”.

An article published today with PLOS ONE describes the first reported creation of a synthetic species, a fruit fly that has been christened Drosophila synthetica. Author Eduardo Moreno of the University of Bern describes a combination of commonly used lab variants that result in a fly that is capable of producing fertile offspring with others that are genetically the same, but not with its wild-type predecessor, Drosophila melanogasterD. synthetica has smaller, paler eyes compared to D. melanogaster,  and its wings also differ. But is synthetica a different species from melanogaster?

The key may be in the phrase: “a group of … interbreeding natural populations”.  Lions can famously interbreed with tigers, to produce ligers.  There is at least one documented case of a liger that was coaxed into breeding with a lion to produce a rather unhealthy off-spring that grew to adulthood.  The reproductive barrier is not complete, but lions and tigers are still considered separate species.  The issue?  Ligers do not exist in the wild because their habitats do not overlap.  The potential for lions and tigers to interbreed has only been demonstrated in captivity.  Moreno acknowledges that D. synthetica may not meet the Mayr definition, and specifically refers to it as a synthetic species, to distinguish it from a natural species.  He cites two reasons for this: “not only because it has been created in the lab but also because it may never be able to survive outside that laboratory environment.”  Regardless, it seems he will challenge our notions of what it means to be your own species.

Citation: Moreno E (2012) Design and Construction of “Synthetic Species”. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39054. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039054

Drosophila Research Captures our Hearts, and Attention

The American Heart Association Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology recently released their list of “Top Advances in Functional Genomics and Translational Biology for 2011” and we are pleased to announce that PLoS ONE article “A mighty small heart: the cardiac proteome of adult Drosophila melanogaster”(1) is one of 10 featured publications!  All 10 articles were summarized in a paper published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, published by the American Heart Association(2).  The finalists were selected from hundreds of papers in the literature, with input from the Early Career Committee of the Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology.

In this article, Cammarato and colleagues describe the full complement of proteins that exist in the adult Drosophila heart.  The insect heart, also referred to as the dorsal vessel, is a simple pulsing tube that maintains the flow of haemolymph (ie. bug blood) through its open circulatory system (lower image and inset, shown with nearby abdominal muscle).  The haemolymph is not restricted to vessels — there are no veins and arteries — but instead bathes the tissues in one big internal cavity.  Unlike our circulatory systems, the insect system has no role in delivering oxygen to tissues and cells, so the haemolymph contains no red blood cells.  Similarly to our system, it does carry various immune cells and nutrients necessary for the health and function of the animal.  Despite any differences, we have long known that many of the genes involved in making a fly heart are the same as those needed to make a mammalian heart.

The authors of the PLoS ONE study carry out a comprehensive survey of proteins that make up the adult Drosophila heart.  Importantly, they compared their results to those found by researchers that have examined adult mouse hearts, and the similarities they identified are astonishing.  Essentially, the authors have paved the way for new studies that will use Drosophila in research of heart disease and its treatment.

For decades, research in Drosophila has provided insight into various complex biomedical problems, and now we can turn to this model to fight the number one cause of death worldwide (3).  We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Cammarato and colleagues, and we ask that you forgive the pun.

  1. Cammarato A, Ahrens CH, Alayari NN, Qeli E, Rucker J, et al. (2011) PLoS ONE 6(4): e18497. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018497
  2. Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. 2012; 5: 143-145 doi: 10.1161/?CIRCGENETICS.111.962621

Images by André Karwath, used under CC-BY-SA license and from