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Supporting FAIR data in the Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences

At PLOS we are thrilled to be a signatory of Commitment Statement towards Enabling FAIR data in the Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences. This cross-publisher disciplinary effort is very much in line with PLOS’ existing commitment to data sharing, and raises the standards of practice in these fields. The Earth Sciences do have a home at PLOS ONE, and we are excited to support this initiative and to work with the community towards implementing these principles.


For more than four years now, PLOS journals require that all data underlying the findings described in a manuscript be made available without restriction. (We do consider exceptions in particular around privacy of research participants).  The aim of the policy is to improve reproducibility of research and reusability of data to accelerate further research. This policy has met with challenges as well as a lot of positive impact. Over 100,000 papers have been published in the PLOS journals under this policy.


The new Commitment Statement towards Enabling FAIR data in the Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences comes from an initiative convened by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It brings together researchers, publishers, repositories, funding agencies, academic societies and other institutions who commit to support the necessary infrastructure to enable sharing of data  according to the FAIR principles: F for findable, A for accessible, I for interoperable and R for re-usable data.


Data sharing in the Earth and Space Sciences has a strong tradition, and in particular through the practices promoted by the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS). The present Commitment Statement now takes a definitive step towards ensuring strong standards of data sharing. For example, in honoring this statement, publishers will ensure that baring legitimate exceptions all data supporting research is available upon publication. Research data central to publications will be directed towards FAIR-aligned repositories as a primary archive rather than online supplementary information to ensure that it can be discovered and re-used.


Whilst the Commitment Statement is supported by an impressive number of researchers and organizations, including publishers as well as funding agencies, societies, institutions and repositories, there are also areas where further work will be needed. Community standards, infrastructure and services around data sharing still need to be developed or improved. Data citations need to become the norm for research papers. Software and code sharing needs to be developed further and supported across the industry. And researchers must be duly credited for the care and efforts they put in sharing their data to maximize its value. Those are not insurmountable problems, and at PLOS we are working towards improving the sharing of all research outputs – from data, software and code to methods, protocols, and more.


Being so aligned with our own principles, we have been proud to support the AGU’s effort, and are excited to see the progress made. One of us (Joerg) has been a co-chair of the project’s publishers working group, and it was a delight to see the enthusiasm of everyone involved. Congratulations to the AGU for bringing such a diverse range of parties together, and for committing an entire research area to the principles of FAIR data sharing. We do hope that this serves as a template for other research disciplines!

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