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twoday.net AGB

On the practice of using supplementary material for data

Gregory Petsko's editorial in Genome Biology compares the current practice of stuffing all data into tables and ill-formated text files as supplementary material and only giving an introduction and a discussion in the main paper with fighting a land war in Asia. I don't particularly like the analogy and the tone of the editorial in general but largely agree.
Currently, we attach complex data to a document style that is not much different from way science was communicated in 1950 despite advance in IT technology that make data sharing possible. However, we need to come up with better formats, not longer papers that include more data.

[Via Keats' telescope]
Jonathan Jacobs (guest) - 2006-03-10 15:42

First, let me say "Hello" and thank you for the blog here. Its a bit inspiring to see a blog by an established scientist; most are too worried about their careers or "reputation" and would be horrified at the notion of maintaining a blog. Thumbs up! Bookmarked!

OK... my comment about this post: I agree.. attaching HUGE text files in tab-delimited format is simply ridiculous. How hard is it _really_ for labs to dump the data into a mysql (or other) database and put a simple web front-end on it? Give the reviewers the option to download the whole data-set if they choose, or use the front-end to navigate the database.

The research group I am with just submitted a manuscript to PLoS Biology and we did exactly that. My apache logs clearly show the reviewer's visits, I guess we will see what they think...

=D

spitshine - 2006-03-10 18:22

The format is not the problem

The text files not the problem for the supplementary data, it ist rather the way there are tied into the manuscript.

The problem with the web interface lies in the long time commitment and that it often does not really help people in navigating the data. A tab separated file for Excel or a database might be the much better choice in many cases.

Besides, one would not be able to track the hot molecule that one is working on. If you happen to access a site of lab that scan their log files for it ...

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