A descriptive analysis of the data availability statements accompanying medRxiv preprints and a comparison with their published counterparts

Abstract:  Objective

To determine whether medRxiv data availability statements describe open or closed data—that is, whether the data used in the study is openly available without restriction—and to examine if this changes on publication based on journal data-sharing policy. Additionally, to examine whether data availability statements are sufficient to capture code availability declarations.


Observational study, following a pre-registered protocol, of preprints posted on the medRxiv repository between 25th June 2019 and 1st May 2020 and their published counterparts.

Main outcome measures

Distribution of preprinted data availability statements across nine categories, determined by a prespecified classification system. Change in the percentage of data availability statements describing open data between the preprinted and published versions of the same record, stratified by journal sharing policy. Number of code availability declarations reported in the full-text preprint which were not captured in the corresponding data availability statement.


3938 medRxiv preprints with an applicable data availability statement were included in our sample, of which 911 (23.1%) were categorized as describing open data. 379 (9.6%) preprints were subsequently published, and of these published articles, only 155 contained an applicable data availability statement. Similar to the preprint stage, a minority (59 (38.1%)) of these published data availability statements described open data. Of the 151 records eligible for the comparison between preprinted and published stages, 57 (37.7%) were published in journals which mandated open data sharing. Data availability statements more frequently described open data on publication when the journal mandated data sharing (open at preprint: 33.3%, open at publication: 61.4%) compared to when the journal did not mandate data sharing (open at preprint: 20.2%, open at publication: 22.3%).


Requiring that authors submit a data availability statement is a good first step, but is insufficient to ensure data availability. Strict editorial policies that mandate data sharing (where appropriate) as a condition of publication appear to be effective in making research data available. We would strongly encourage all journal editors to examine whether their data availability policies are sufficiently stringent and consistently enforced.