For this year’s Open Access Week theme ‘Open for Climate Justice’, we wanted to shed light on the importance of data sharing for addressing one of the greatest challenges we face.

Launching an ozonesonde balloon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The importance of data sharing

As part of our aim to promote greater openness in scientific research, our journals mandate that data underlying any given study is made available – usually through a repository or within the supplementary material. This helps facilitate secure access and storage of datasets, meaning that third parties can use them for their own research. It can be particularly helping for testing theories, developing models or investigating patterns or correlations in a population or over a specific time period.

Climate justice and research

For this year’s Open Access Week theme ‘Open for Climate Justice’, we wanted to shed light on the importance of data sharing for addressing one the greatest challenges we face.

As one of the biggest threats to our planet, climate change has implications for researchers and organisations working across numerous disciplines. For example, the authors of a 2019 Phil Trans B modelling study (1) used published data to model the influence of climate change on Black Sigatoka disease in bananas. In this case, the research spanned both epidemiology and climate science to shed light on an important topic of concern. Bananas are an important staple food crop in many developing countries, both for sustenance and income. Increased threats from infectious diseases will further exacerbate the challenges faced by those who rely on them (2). 

Robust data collection, storage and dissemination can also help us build up a picture of long- and short-term patterns of changes in the climate.  A recent J. R. Soc. Interface study used data spanning 1902 to 2016 to investigate the effect of the climate on annual spring hay yield (3). By applying the results to future climate models, it is predicted that yields will continue to decline by up to 48–50%.

Opening up climate and biodiversity data can also allow important theories to be tested and validated. This has been particularly important for Professor Damien Fordham at The University of Adelaide, who also sits on the Biology Letters Editorial Board. Professor Fordham’s research brings together palentology, climatology, global ecology and genomics to investigate global environmental change. He has written about the importance of open data sets in his area of research for Past Global Changes (PAGES) magazine (4) and Science (5). We asked him to share his perspective with us.

What are the climate consequences of massive open data sets being electronically available?

“Vast amounts of open-access climate and biodiversity data are today allowing important theories in ecology and evolution to be tested and better connected to effective measures to safeguard the future of Earth’s biodiversity.”

How can open data policies and initiatives facilitate collaboration between researchers from different disciplines and geographic areas?

“The recent trend towards publishing open access climate and biodiversity data sets has provided exciting new opportunities to better understand the distribution and dynamics of life on Earth that were unimaginable just ten years ago.  For example, open access data is offering new prospects for benchmarking and maintaining future biodiversity in the face of climate change through facilitating research at the intersection of paleoecology, paleoclimatology, paleogenomics, macroecology, and conservation biology.”

How do you feel journals can build on their work to facilitate data sharing for the international climate research community?

“Through continuing to promote data type papers, and ensuring that they are rigorously peer reviewed, journals have a very important role to play in helping to mitigate climate-driven biodiversity loss in the 21st century.”

Sharing your data with the Royal Society Publishing 

To help make data sharing easier for our authors, we have partnerships with the Dryad and Figshare repositories. On most of our journals, we will cover the cost of depositing data with Dryad. We also deposit all supplementary material into Figshare.

Future prospects

As climate change becomes an increasing threat to the planet, it is more critical that researchers, universities, organisations and journals work together to facilitate the sharing of climate data over the long-term. Doing so will help us develop accurate models, test important theories and lay the foundations for creative solutions. 


(1) Bebber Daniel P. 2019 Climate change effects on Black Sigatoka disease of banana Phil. Trans. R. Soc.
(2) Friesen Timothy L. 2016 Combating the Sigatoka Disease Complex on Banana. PLoS Genet 12(8): e1006234.
(3) Addy John W. G., Ellis Richard H., MacLaren Chloe, Macdonald Andy J., Semenov Mikhail A and Mead Andrew. 2022. A heteroskedastic model of Park Grass spring hay yields in response to weather suggests continuing yield decline with climate change in future decades J. R. Soc. Interface. 192022036120220361
(4) Fordham Damien A. and Nogues-Bravo David 2018 Open-access data is uncovering past responses of biodiversity to global environmental change. Past Global Changes Magazine 26(2)
(5) Fordham, D. A., Jackson, S. T., Brown, S. C., Huntley, B., Brook, B. W., Dahl-Jensen, D., Gilbert, M. T. P., Otto-Bliesner, B. L., Svensson, A., Theodoridis, S. et al. 2020. Using paleo-archives to safeguard biodiversity under climate change. Science, 369(6507), [eabc5654].

Image: Launching an ozonesonde balloon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Royal Society journals publish research in all areas of climate change. Find out more.


  • Jessica Miller

    Jessica Miller

    Jessica is the Editorial Coordinator for Journal of the Royal Society Interface and Interface Focus, where she helps facilitate the submission and peer review processes as well as organising social media for both journals.