Stuart Taylor, Publishing Director at the Royal Society, outlines why open data is an important part of scholarly scientific communication, and how partnership with figshare helps the Royal Society journals play a more active role in making research data discoverable.


Datasets are amongst the most important and valuable outputs of research – perhaps the most important of all. To derive the maximum benefit from scientific research it is essential that datasets are made as widely available and useable as possible. Despite a growing open data movement in recent years with strong support from a number of organisations (including the Royal Society) most scientific datasets still remain unavailable to the wider research community. There are many reasons for this. Gathering experimental data is difficult and time-consuming and individual scientists have understandable concerns about sharing precious datasets upon which they plan to base future publications. Given the heavy focus of our research assessment processes on published outputs, there is the ever-present anxiety about being ‘scooped’ by competitors. But there are practical problems too. The data infrastructure we have is fragmented and there is no clear consensus about who should be responsible for data storage and curation. Datasets are held in a variety of places including established, disciplinary repositories, university datacentres or supplementary materials files on journal websites. But most are still held by researchers themselves in a variety of ways, none of which are open for the benefit of the wider research community.

figshare logo

The Royal Society has a requirement that all authors publishing in our journals share the data and other research materials on which their articles are based. Thus far, sharing has been via subject data repositories, such as Dryad, Genbank and EarthChem, or in the form of electronic supplementary material accompanying the article. We are now taking this a step further through a partnership with figshare to make our authors’ datasets publicly available, searchable and citeable in a single location – our figshare portal. Not only does this benefit the community as a whole, but there are advantages for the individual creator of the datasets too. Figshare allows the researcher to gain more credit for their work and grow their profile. There is also evidence that data sharing can increase citation rates.

Mark Hahnel, founder of figshare said;

“I’m delighted that figshare has partnered with the Royal Society on progressing their data plans. We have long been an admirer of their forward-thinking attitude in this space and were delighted when we featured in their ‘Science as an open enterprise’ report several years ago. We look forward to a continued partnership, thinking along with their plans for a more open academic agenda.”

Royal Society authors with supplementary material, including datasets, now have their files automatically deposited in figshare. Further information about this process can be found in the Supplementary material section of our Author guidelines.


  • Stuart Taylor

    Stuart Taylor