Paleonet: An Open Letter in Support of Digital Data Archiving

rcpm20 at rcpm20 at
Sun Mar 27 12:38:17 GMT 2011

Dear Jere,

Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment on our Open Letter.
We encourage every palaeontologist and everyone with an interest in  
palaeontology to do the same so that all our views are represented in  
one place for all to see.

We believe data archiving is 'pushed' by the NSF and increasingly all  
other funding bodies, all over the world, because there are a  
multitude of compelling reasons to do so, as we have briefly outlined  
in our Open Letter (

Yes, we acknowledge that there is a monetary cost associated with data  
archiving, and it is an ongoing cost. But in my opinion, relative to  
the potential benefits reaped (more science, more synthesis, more  
transparency, more 'reproduceability'...) it will certainly be  
well-worth it as evaluated by any considered cost/benefit analysis.

To quantify this, let us compare the 'page costs' of publishing a  
paper with the cost of archiving the associated data with Dryad. I'm  
led to believe that Dryad currently charges ~25USD per article to  
archive data, charged to the journal (pers. comm. Todd Vision) - a  
reasonable and wise request to ensure the long-term future of the  
availability of the data. Page costs vary from journal to journal:   
$55 per page (Evolution), $100 per page (Paleobiology), $195 per page  
(PNAS), $1300 (total, PLoS ONE), with the notable exception of Zookeys  
which can be *free* provided certain conditions are met [1]. Clearly,  
in my opinion relative to page charges, data archiving charges are  
slight but insignificant.

As for the smaller journals published by smaller less wealthy  
societies, I would advocate a 'Freemium' approach and archive data in  
free repositories e.g. FigShare, MorphoBank, MorphBank, PaleoDB,  
ZooBank, BioTorrents, TreeBASE II, and others... These may perhaps be  
less certain in terms of long-term sustainability, but have good  
short-term prospects, and they're free, so why not! - in terms of  
additional time cost: it only took me 60 seconds to upload a test file  
and associated metadata to FigShare just recently, so again, this is  
not a problem.

And to those who say that $25 per article may only subsidise the 'true  
cost' of archiving (I don't know the economics of this myself), this  
is where funding body support comes in: would it not be hypocritical  
for funding bodies to urge data archiving and not help to fund it, at  
least in part?

The key thing *we* can do to ensure that archiving stays funded and  
viable, is to embrace and support good and useful data archives by  
depositing our data there AND re-using data from these archives (with  
full and proper citation of both the original dataset(s) used AND the  
repository from which one obtained the dataset(s)).

Finally, as for the article you mention:
Hanson, B., Sugden, A., and Alberts, B. 2011. Making data maximally  
available. Science 331:649.

I encourage everyone to read this if you have access. It's a good  
article and I do not think it finds the "future bleak" as you say -  
quite the opposite in my opinion. There is a wealth of data out there  
and we must learn new ways and build new tools to be able to fully  
make use of it all.

I would think from this that the future is very bright for data  
archiving and palaeontological science :)

Kind regards to one and all,


thanks to V. Blagoderov (NHM) for pointing this out to me

Ross Mounce
PhD Student
Fossils, Phylogeny and Macroevolution Research Group
University of Bath
4 South Building, Lab 1.07

More information about the Paleonet mailing list