The tragedy of the biodiversity data commons: a data impediment creeping nigher?
Researchers are embracing the open access movement to facilitate unrestricted availability
of scientific results. One sign of this willingness is the steady increase in data freely
shared online, which has prompted a corresponding increase in the number of papers
using such data. Publishing datasets is a time-consuming process that is often seen as a
courtesy, rather than a necessary step in the research process. Making data accessible
allows further research, provides basic information for decision-making and contributes
to transparency in science. Nevertheless, the ease of access to heaps of data carries a
perception of `free lunch for all¿, and the work of data publishers is largely going unnoticed.
Acknowledging such a significant effort involving the creation, management
and publication of a dataset remains a flimsy, not well established practice in the scientific
community. In a meta-analysis of published literature, we have observed various
dataset citation practices, but mostly (92%) consisting of merely citing the data repository
rather than the data publisher. Failing to recognize the work of data publishers might
lead to a decrease in the number of quality datasets shared online, compromising potential
research that is dependent on the availability of such data. We make an urgent appeal
to raise awareness about this issue.