RS Publishing responds
Apr 19, 2011
Bishop Hill in Climate: Briffa, Journals

In the wake of my posting about the changes in the Royal Society Publishing's policy on data openness, I wrote to the man in charge, Dr Stuart Taylor asking for his comments and specifically what prompted the change. I'm grateful to Dr Taylor for a full and thorough response, which I am posting here with permission.

There is certainly no intention on our part to "weaken our policy," nor have we received any representations from anyone asking us to modify it. What you read on our website simply provides more information that the earlier instruction and the intention was, in fact, to tighten the policy from the rather briefer earlier wording by asking our authors to state, at the time of submission any conditions of data sharing that might apply. The change was approved by our Publishing Board in October 2008 in the light of Briffa et al and Matthews et al.

The proof of any policy is in its implementation, as I am sure you will agree. The fact that there exist discipline-specific conventions does not mean that we are any less strict in obtaining data when requested. In fact, I notice that you qualified your initial post later:

"I've edited the main post shortly after posting it as I'd missed the fact that they were still saying that requests had to be complied with..."

I disagree that it is contradictory - as there has been no "watering down." Our policy on data sharing has been widely praised and is something that most of the commercial publishers do not have in their publishing policies. As the UK's national academy, I believe we should be setting an example in this area and I would not accept an article from authors who sought to keep their data private without a very strong case indeed. So your question about how we would flag such articles is somewhat hypothetical.

Please be assured that this policy "has teeth" and we take its implementation seriously. A good case in point was the Matthews article in 2008.

But if I have not managed to persuade you, please don't hesitate to contact me again by phone or email and I shall be happy to discuss the issue further.

I have replied to Dr Taylor that the policy still reads as though it has weakened, but that I am happy to take him at his word that I am mistaken and that the policy still has teeth.

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