Research data policies and services

Research Data Policies FAQs

Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about the Springer Nature Research Data Policies. The FAQs are divided in to three main categories:

Part 1: Questions about the data policiesPart 2: Questions about data repositoriesPart 3: General questions about sharing data

If you have a question that is not answered by the below, please contact the Springer Nature Research Data Support Helpdesk for further assistance.

Part 1: Questions about the data policies

1. What are the different types of standard data sharing policies?

The data sharing policies are arranged into four types with a different set of features and requirements for each type. See the policy table for more information:

● Mandatory     ◐ Optional     ○ Not Required

FeatureExplanationType 1Type 2Type 3Type 4
Data sharing via repositories supportedDetails of sharing via repositories is referred to in journal guide to authors

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Data citation permittedJournal style guide permits authors to cite publicly available datasets in reference lists

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Publisher helpdeskHelpdesk contact details included in journal information for authors

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Public data deposition and dataset identifier checks for specific types of dataData deposition checked as part of the publishing process where there is an established research community mandate

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Data availability statementsStatement in published articles explaining how supporting data can be accessed

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Public data deposition and dataset identifier required and verifiedData made publicly available and data identifiers provided for all published articles (with exceptions for sensitive/personal data)

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Data citationsRelevant dataset citations in reference lists provided and verified

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Peer review of dataPeer reviewer guidelines and process give guidance on accessing and reviewing data files

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Integrated data repositorySubmission system/review process integrated with a journal-specific or general repository, such as figshare

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2. Is software included in the data availability policies?

The focus of this policy framework is on data rather software but the sharing of software is also important. Many Springer Nature journals, including BioMed Central and Nature journals have policies applicable to software. We will be considering Springer Nature-wide policies on software availability in the future.

3. Are materials included in the policies?

No. Materials, such as reagents, samples and cell culture collections are not generally included in the data availability policies. The sharing of materials is however important, and many Springer Nature journals, including BioMed Central and Nature journals, have policies applicable to materials. We will be considering Springer Nature-wide policies on materials availability in the future.

4. What data do the data policies apply to?

Research data can take many forms, across the many fields of research covered by journals and books published by Springer Nature. The data sharing policies in general concern the minimal dataset that supports the central findings of a published study. Specific publications and communities may have more specific standards and definitions, however.

5. Do the policies apply to sensitive or personal data and data subject to third party restrictions?

The policies apply to all research that support publications but reasonable restrictions on data availability are permitted to protect human privacy, biosafety or respect reasonable terms of use for data obtained under license from third parties. Our Research Data Support Helpdesk can provide general advice on publishing articles about different kinds of sensitive data. Also see our guidance on Data Availability Statements or consult, for example, published guidance on managing research data, data anonymisation, and linking sensitive data to publications.

6. Which journals do these policies apply to?

We are encouraging all Springer Nature journals, open access and subscription access, across all imprints to adopt a standard research data sharing policy. You can find the list of journals and the policies they support here.

7. Is data sharing mandatory for every article?

No, only journals with a type 4 policy mandate public data archiving for every article. The minimum requirement of all policy types is to encourage data sharing via repositories. All policy types recognise that some data, such as data about identifiable human research participants, cannot be shared openly.

8. When are these policies being introduced?

Springer Nature Journals will begin introducing one of the standard data sharing policies from the second quarter of 2016.

9. Why have four different types of data policy?

While access to and reuse of research data is widely accepted to benefit research, different research communities are at different stages of readiness to share research data. This can depend on numerous factors including academic culture and practice and the type of data and resources, such as data repositories, available to the research community and their journals. The different types of policy aim to account for these differences while providing a common framework, and encourage good practice on data sharing.

10. Is the type (1, 2, 3 or 4) of data sharing policy used linked to a publication’s quality?

The type of data sharing policy a publication offers is not determined by journal quality, prestige or Impact Factor. We expect journals to adopt the data sharing policy that is most appropriate for its research community and the resources available to that community, and to encourage good practice.

11. What is a data availability statement?

In general, data availability statements provide a statement about where data supporting the results reported in the article can be found including, where applicable, hyperlinks to publicly archived datasets analysed or generated during the study. The data policy types 2, 3 and 4 encourage or require the provision of data availability statements. See our data availability statement resource page for more information.

12. Why should I cite research data?

All four types of data policy permit research datasets to be formally cited in article reference lists. Citing and referencing data in publications supports reproducible research, by increasing the transparency and provenance tracking of data generated or analysed during research. Citing data formally in reference lists also helps facilitate the tracking of data reuse and may help assign credit for individuals’ contributions to research. A number of Springer Nature imprints are signatories of the Joint Declaration on Data Citation Principles, which stress the importance of data resources in scientific communication.

13. How do I cite research data?

Where datasets are hosted in public repositories that provide datasets with Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), we encourage these datasets to be formally cited in reference lists. Citations of datasets, when they appear in the reference list, should include the minimum information recommended by DataCite and follow journal style. For example:

Hao, Z., AghaKouchak, A., Nakhjiri, N., Farahmand, A. Global Integrated Drought Monitoring and Prediction System (GIDMaPS) Data sets. figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.853801 (2014)

14. If a journal is not listed as following one of the standard policies, does that mean it has no data policy?

A Springer Nature journal may still have its own research data policy even if it is not listed as following one of the standard policies. We will list journals that follow one of the standard research data policies once a standard policy (type 1, 2, 3 or 4) has been implemented.

15. When should data be shared?

Researchers generally have a right of reasonable first use to data generated during their research. Under the policy types 2 and 3, authors are strongly encouraged to make data available as early as possible while respecting research community norms and funder and institution policies. Embargoes on data sharing are common in some communities and permitted under some funder policies. Assuming there are no relevant community or funder policies or mandates requiring sharing within a specific time, then community norms on embargoes and right of first use would prevail under the type 1, 2 and 3 policies. Under the type 2 and 3 policy, secondary researchers are entitled to make reasonable requests for access to data supporting publications. Under the type 4 policy, all data must be shared as a condition of submission to these journals.

16. For which types of research data is data archiving mandatory?

For the following types of data set, submission to a community-endorsed, public repository is generally mandatory. Examples of appropriate public repositories are listed below.

Mandatory depositionSuitable repositories
Protein sequencesUniprot
DNA and RNA sequences

Genbank

DNA DataBank of Japan (DDBJ)

EMBL Nucleotide Sequence Database (ENA)

DNA and RNA sequencing data

NCBI Trace Archive

NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA)
Genetic polymorphisms

dbSNP

dbVar

European Variation Archive (EVA)

Linked genotype and phenotype data

dbGAP

The European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA)

Macromolecular structure

Worldwide Protein Data Bank (wwPDB)

Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank (BMRB)

Electron Microscopy Data Bank (EMDB)

Microarray data (must be MIAME compliant)Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO)

ArrayExpress

Crystallographic data for small moleculesCambridge Structural Database

17. Who do I contact for more information?

Please contact the Springer Nature Research Data Support helpdesk for more information.

18. How do I find a suitable data repository?

In the absence of specific data repository recommendations from their target journal, authors in science disciplines should consult our list of research data repositories (derived from the journal Scientific Data’s approved list of repositories). Authors in arts and humanities disciplines should consult the Registry of Research Data Repositories, re3data.org. For life science researchers, FAIRsharing lists  suitable repositories. Researchers in all disciplines can also consider general repositories - that accept all types of research data - such as figshare and Dryad. Alternatively, researchers can contact our helpdesk for assistance.

Part 2: Questions about data repositories

19. What are the benefits of using data repositories?

Data repositories are generally the preferred way to share research data. Data repositories make data more accessible and discoverable than sharing data via supplementary information files and can enable searching across similar datasets. Repositories also typically provide standardised ways of structuring and identifying data, and support domain-specific data reporting standards.

20. What makes a good data repository?

Data repositories for data supporting peer-reviewed publications generally should:
i. Ensure long-term persistence and preservation of datasets
ii. Be recognized by a research community or research institution
iii. Provide deposited datasets with stable and persistent identifiers, such as Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)
iv. Allow access to data without unnecessary restrictions
v. Provide a clear license or terms of use for deposited datasets

21. What should I do if my preferred data repository is not listed by Springer Nature?

There are growing numbers of repositories for research data and it’s possible an author’s or editor’s preferred repository is not listed by Springer Nature, FAIRsharing or re3data.org. This need not be a cause for concern. In such cases, we encourage:
i. Repository managers to investigate listing repositories with re3data.org in the first instance (see FAQ 16) and, for those that meet the criteria, applying for listing with Scientific Data.
ii. Authors to consider depositing a copy of their dataset(s) in a general repository such as figshare or their institutional repository where applicable.

22. Can institutional repositories be used for data?

Authors may submit to Springer Nature publications and host their data in their institutional or project specific repository. Institutional repositories should be able to provide DataCite DOIs for hosted data, and share data under open terms of use. However, we do not list institutional or project specific repositories in our Recommended Repositories list, due to the restrictions on who can submit data to them (that is, authors from that institution/project).

23. How much does data deposit in repositories cost and who pays?

This depends on the repository but many data repositories do not charge a fee to depositors.

Part 3: General questions about sharing data

24. What about copyright and licenses for deposited data?

Where data are held in repositories, this will be guided by the license terms of the repository. In general, where data are freely available online, a license or legal tool that enables the maximum potential for reuse, such as with the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication waiver, is preferred. For more information, BioMed Central hosts a set of FAQs dedicated to open licensing of research data. Supplementary information files (additional files) published across Springer Nature’s journals are freely available online including in our subscription access journals. Springer Nature does not claim intellectual property rights in submitted datasets.

24. Is release of research data ahead of publication considered prior publication?

Many Springer Nature journals and imprints including the Nature journals and BioMed Central journals have established policies on data release ahead of publication making it clear data sharing will not be considered prior publication. Springer Nature strongly supports immediate and early sharing of research data in public health emergencies.

25. How should researchers share “standard datasets” or datasets derived from public domain resources, such as open government websites?

In general, researchers are encouraged to provide information or links to their source data as part of the submission and publication process. Where data are derived from existing datasets or resources and where data license and reuse terms permit, researchers are encouraged to share copies of derived datasets which support the claims in their published manuscripts. We provide template data availability statements to be used in these situations. Individual journals are best placed to advise on specific manuscripts, however.

26. Whose responsibility is it to check authors are permitted to share data as supplementary material or deposit in a data repository?

Researchers can only share data that they are legally permitted to share or publish. In general it is the responsibility of the data depositor (author) to ensure they have the necessary rights or permissions to submit data to a journal or repository. Different repositories and journals have different licence agreements for submitted work which must be reviewed by the authors as part of submission.