Data Sharing Mandates, Developmental Science, and Responsibly Supporting Authors
Developments in the Journal's Data Sharing Policy
Data Sharing Mandates, Developmental Science, and Responsibly Supporting Authors
Roger J. R. Levesque 0
0 Indiana University , 302 Sycamore Hall, Bloomington, IN , USA
1 Roger J. R. Levesque
Data sharing has come of age. Long expected as a professional courtesy but rarely honored, data sharing is now highlighted in codes of ethics, supported by research communities, required by leading funding organizations, and variously encouraged and mandated by journals and even publishers. These developments reveal how sharing generates many benefits, all of which go to the integrity of the scientific process. Yet, sharing remains a complex phenomenon. This Editorial explains the journal's response to the publisher's mandate to establish an appropriate data sharing policy for the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. It describes the need to balance the benefits of sharing with its costs for authors publishing in multidisciplinary, developmental science journals like this one. For this journal and at this time, that balance leads us to err on the side of caution, which means supporting those who created their data and not coercing public sharing as a condition for publishing. This approach recognizes authors' reliance on a wide variety of data, the needs of differentially situated authors, the requirements of robust peer review, and the potential harms that can come from editors' unilateral sharing mandates.
Data Sharing ● Replication ● Authors' rights ●; Editorial Guidelines
My manuscript has associated data in a data repository.
My manuscript has no associated data or the data will
not be deposited.
My manuscript has data included as electronic
The current approach means that the editor and
publisher’s staff readily see the authors’ declarations. Reviewers
and others who seek to understand or use the study’s
findings do not have ready access to the statements, let alone the
We now question the practice of not making data
sharing declarations public. There appears to be no
compelling reason for not publishing declarations in the
articles themselves, particularly since the declarations being
X X X
made to the publisher are the same that would be
made public. Making those statements public also is not
more problematic given that the journal only encourages
post publication data sharing. This is what Type 2 seeks
Adopting Type 2 means that authors submitting to the
journal will soon find that we require more than simply
notifying the editor about the data being used and how it
can be shared once the manuscript is published. Authors
will need to make a public statement about their data’s
availability and how it can be obtained if it is going to be
deposited or otherwise shared.
The major shift from Type 1 to Type 2 is that authors
who agree to share their original data now must also reveal
how others can access it. Following Type 2 to its logical
conclusion means that authors can note several possible
Data Sharing Declarations in their acknowledgments:
● This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.
● Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no
datasets were generated or analyzed during the current
● All data generated or analyzed during this study are
included in this published article (and its supplementary
● The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the
current study are not publicly available but are available
from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
● The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the
current study are available in the [NAME] repository,
[PERSISTENT WEB LINK TO DATASETS].
● The data that support the findings of this study are
available from [THIRD PARTY NAME] but restrictions
apply to the availability of these data, which were used
under license for the current study, and so are not
publicly available. However, data are available from the
authors upon reasonable request and with permission of
[THIRD PARTY NAME].
Notably, the last two declarations provide only a starting
point for discussion. Those seeking to use the original data
will need to know what will be available, such as which
data, data dictionaries, statistical analysis plans, study
protocols, dates of data availability, and criteria for access.
Much is needed for meaningful or correct reanalysis, a
point that figured prominently in the journal’s position on
The Journal’s Position on Data Sharing
A reading of editorials explaining data sharing policies and
a look at the policies themselves clearly leaves the
impression that the goal is to pressure authors toward
sharing data. For example, some journals encourage and
even mandate sharing of some data
(see Lindsay 2017)
Others pressure authors to deposit their data by requiring
them to explicitly state why they are not sharing and
requiring authors to have compelling reasons for not sharing
(see Barbui et al. 2016)
. In some disciplines, editors have
grouped together and agreed to move toward mandated data
sharing for some types of data
(see Taichman et al. 2017)
These developments lead editors in some fields, such as
medicine, to view the practice of data sharing, in one form
or another, as inevitable
(Merson et al. 2016; Bauchner et al.
. Together, these developments leave no doubt that
editors taking positions on data sharing are moving toward
Type 4 described in Table 1.
This journal takes a different position. We do not adopt
what appears to be the emerging trend, including what
appears to be assumptions about “encouraging” data sharing.
Instead, we take on the burden of supporting authors. The
major form of support is to help authors alert readers where
data can be located if authors wish to share their data. For
authors who need assistance in depositing their data, the
publisher offers support, including pointing authors to
curation services. The publisher also has a help desk to
assist researchers who are creating data to share. In our
view, that support is what the field, and journal, needs.
Authors should not be compelled to share their data
publicly, nor should they feel compelled. This includes not
being required to state why they choose not to share their
data. They should be supported to make decisions they
We view the journal as taking on the burden of helping
authors make what they view as the responsible decision
regarding the sharing of their data. Placing the
responsibility on the authors, rather than on the journal to
nudge or mandate sharing, does not mean that authors are
free to ignore calls to share their data. It is notable that,
regardless of whether they deposit their data or indicate
where it can be found, authors still commit to making
the data available upon a reasonable request. Such
commitments have long been accepted professional custom
and are stated in a variety of professional codes of
ethics, most notably for our journal, the code adopted
American Psychological Association (2017
Rationales for not Compelling Authors to Share their Data
Two major concerns foster recent developments in sharing
data. First, researchers tend to be unwilling to share, as even
authors who publish in journals that mandate sharing
pervasively do not share
(Savage and Vickers 2009; Fecher
et al. 2015)
. To complicate matters, those who are willing
also tend to be ineffective sharers (see Tenopir et al. 2011).
Second, the integrity of the scientific enterprise relies on
transparency, accountability and replicability that can be
more readily had with access to primary data
et al. 2016)
. Easy access to data and materials facilitates
scientific developments as it allows for better evaluations of
substantive claims and produces more informed research. In
addressing these two concerns, the general needs of the
scientific enterprise have started to supersede those of
Concerns about limited data sharing have merit, but they
do not necessarily counsel opening data for public
consumption. That is why editors’ move toward coercing data
sharing, although well-intentioned, appears to be heading
in the wrong direction. For those of us, like this editor, who
study the failures of policies and legal systems, we are not
surprised to find that authors are notoriously incompetent
sharers of their data even though they commit to
doing some sharing when they publish their work. Many
factors inhibit sharing, such as authors’ concerns about
originality, the protection of participants, intellectual
property, data collection incentives, curation, translations
(see, e.g., Gewin 2016; Voytek 2016)
However, likely the most compelling reasons for not making
data available relate to authors’ costs associated with
investing resources into making data available and taking
risks when the data are available. These are not
While reasons for not sharing have been dismissed as
(see Smith and Roberts 2016)
, coercive sharing
mandates do not necessarily address authors’ concerns.
Costs and risks do not disappear just because mandates
require compliance. Yet, that is precisely what several
policies appear to assume. As an example, it has been
suggested that codes of ethics protect authors from the
harms that could come from shared research. In announcing
its recent move toward sharing data, Psychological Science
pointed to the code of ethics as the major source of
protection against the problematic use of shared data
. Yet, given that the failure to follow codes of ethics
about data sharing led to journal policies encouraging the
deposition of data, it is somewhat surprising that codes of
ethics are referenced as the obvious source of protection
against the problematic use of data provided for public
consumption. It would seem reasonable to question how
much “teeth” a code has in shaping protective behavior
when it failed to shape benevolent sharing. From this
editor’s perspective, harms arising from shared data are not
easily remediable and preventable, which raises the duty of
journal editors to protect authors’ interests rather than place
them at risk.
There may be many compelling reasons for not
mandating data sharing in our area of research,1 but arguably
the most compelling reason for not mandating is that the
field (particularly its journal editors who would impose
mandates) has not developed methods to shield authors
from the problematic use of their data. This is particularly
important given that researchers are the ones burdened
when others wrongly use their original data. For some
researchers who collect their own data, the benefits that can
come from broader data sharing may not justify the
Anecdotal evidence from editorial board members
points to potential harms associated with the variety of
ways that authors share their findings. Current practices
already place authors at risk. For example, a board member
recently noted surprise when asked to review a manuscript
based on an analysis that they had sent out for review to
another journal; another expressed concern because they
once shared unpublished data that others unexpectedly
used as a foundation for a publication. Board members also
have noted how problematic it is to share data when they
seek to write multiple articles or are conducting
longitudinal studies. Given the premium placed on publishing
original work, the concern that others can publish more
quickly or in stronger outlets is a very real one. And, let us
not forget that the vast majority of researchers have spoken
loudly by their actions: they tend not to share even when
journals mandate sharing.
More forceful approaches to encouraging sharing could
have its place in developing the field. As medical journals
have shown, researchers and institutions have changed how
they think about data collection and even the nature of data
(see Barbui et al. 2016)
. Researchers now increasingly
recognize the benefits of considering data sharing from the
1 Many factors counsel against compelling authors to share their data
and raise the duty to protect authors’ interests. As of now, our field has
not matured in ways similar to others that mandate sharing, such as
fields of study that require very costly data collection or have
exceedingly rare data that compel sharing. By and large, the studies
published in our journal are not the type that participants would suffer
if their data were not shared; and there also tends not to be public
emergencies that mandate sharing and no excessive innovations that
would limit other similarly situated researchers from obtaining their
own data. In addition, some types of data may not be readily shared.
While some sources of funding require researchers to plan for data
sharing, some authors may not have access to such support. Basic
fairness issues also ask whether it is fair to require some authors to
share when others are not required to do so. Those same fairness
concerns are grounds to question whether it is responsible to require
some authors to bear the cost of preparing data for sharing when they
lack needed support. Our field remains diverse in its data sources, a
diversity that overly restrictive policies run the risk of stifling.
beginning of their projects, including when they obtain
consent from participants and ensure confidentiality when
data are shared
(see Sarpatwari et al. 2014; El Emam et al.
, and they detail publication plans to make the best
use of databases (Drazen 2014). And medical journal
editors have taken steps to make data sharing the norm for
some types of studies, as even they recently recognized that
mandated sharing can be problematic and flexibility is
(see Taichman et al. 2017)
. These developments
certainly move toward more informed and efficient data
sharing, but until efforts are made to better protect
those who would share data, it is ill-advised to move
hastily toward policies limiting publication to authors who
It is true that bad cases make bad law, that fear of
problematic cases can result in problematic policies. Fears of
system-gaming perhaps could be dismissed as reactionary.
Concerns about “research parasites” have been raised and
properly responded to as they run the risk of ignoring the
legitimate use of available data and the benefits that come
from replication as well as novel inquiry using existing data
(see Emmert-Streib et al. 2016)
. Those points are well taken
and highlight the need to not lump the legitimate use of
deposited data sets with those that are obtained and used
However, those points are not the grounds on which we
disagree about mandated data sharing. In fact, this journal
has a long track record of supporting manuscripts that rely
on large data sets collected and curated by others. In
addition, this journal led to the development of another,
Adolescent Research Review, dedicated to reviewing existing
(see Levesque 2016a)
and encourages the field to
better evaluate itself Levesque (2016b). And, this journal
has a history of supporting emerging scholars who
frequently rely on their mentors’ data or large, curated data
sets, as illustrated by nominees and recipients of this
journal’s annual emerging scholar awards
(see, e.g., Levesque
When it comes to authors making their data publicly
available or when otherwise sharing their data with
colleagues, this journal seeks to follow the simple rule that those
who would take the most risk should control the decisions
relating to the risk. The well-established rule for those of us
in service professions, which undoubtedly includes editorial
work, is that we first do no harm. This means that we must
respect authors’ decisions when they decline to make their
data publicly available.
It also is true that requiring public statements about
authors’ data sharing decisions can be a source of pressure
for authors who decline to make their data publicly
available. For some authors, mandated public statements
under the threat of editors’ rejection may be considerably
coercive. Journals routinely pressure authors (and authors
may well not even realize the pressures that they are
under).2 Notably, for example, this journal was the first of
its type to “pressure” authors to make public statements
about authors’ relative contributions
(see Levesque 2012)
The journal also stands alone with the long list of
acknowledgments it asks authors to publish, such as
acknowledgments relating to funding, conflicts of interest,
informed consent, and so forth. The inability to provide
some of these statements has led to rejecting manuscripts.
These types of pressure may be unique to the journal, but
they are not cause for concern. All journals routinely prod,
nudge and require authors to accommodate their own
Examples from the journal’s past efforts indicate that the
type of pressure that should concern us is undue pressure.
We view the pressure to make public statements as part of
the broader, typical pressure that researchers face when
they need to be transparent. The peer review process has
long been a check on problematic science. It certainly has
its problems and is open to abuse, but authors who wish to
publish must be willing to ensure that reviewers feel
comfortable with the quality of their data. At least for this
journal, reviewers routinely identify concerns about data
and analyses, and those are the primary grounds for
negative editorial decisions when authors are unable to
address them reasonably. When reviewers request different
analyses, authors frequently include them in the revised
manuscripts as part of other sensitivity analyses. In
addition, the journal currently has no space limitations once
manuscripts have survived external peer review, which
means that authors make considerable amounts of data
public. The point is that the manuscripts we publish
necessarily present extensive data and analyses for readers
to evaluate their legitimacy. And, as noted above, authors
are required to make many public acknowledgments to help
readers discern potential biases and limitations. These
considerations and processes may not be the best way for
the system to correct and police itself, and it may be
problematic for some authors, but it currently provides an
appropriate balance between the need to produce robust,
trustworthy science and the need to protect the interests of
2 Editors evaluate manuscripts in light of several considerations
unknown to authors. Editors must consider not only the quality of
submitted manuscripts but also the capabilities of their review process,
impressions of the scholarly field’s needs, subjective evaluations of the
public’s interest in the science, future and past manuscripts on specific
topics or using specific analyses, and parameters expressed by the
publisher. Publishers likely have more influence than most authors
realize. Fortunately for this journal, however, the publisher’s staff has
been exceedingly supportive and has been at the forefront of
advancing how our field publishes and what it publishes.
As a multidisciplinary, developmental science research
outlet, this journal must recognize multiple interests at stake
in calls for sharing data. Despite the benefits of sharing, it is
important to avoid coercive mandates that jeopardize
researchers. We are encouraged by the publisher’s support
of data sharing and developments that shape the
accumulation of data. Some fields may legitimately require sharing;
but ours has a long way to go before it can legitimately do
so. Reasonable people may well disagree with our position.
Ours rests on the accumulated knowledge of several
colleagues and their sense of our fields of study. It also rests on
what we actually study: social change, transitions, harms,
and positive development as well as how best to protect and
support responsible actions. Increasingly forceful calls for
sharing, regardless of their apparent legitimacy, make it all
the more important to not ignore our field’s insights about
how to foster and support people’s responsible decisions
and actions. Authors currently are the best situated to make
data sharing decisions.
Acknowledgements This editorial benefitted from conversations
with many colleagues associated with the journal, particularly the
publisher’s staff and Jonathan R. Brauer, who helped work through
issues but are not responsible for this manuscript’s conclusions and the
journal’s editorial positions.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest The author reports that he is the Editor of the
Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Roger J. R. Levesque is Professor of Criminal Justice and (Affiliate)
Law, Indiana University. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal
of Youth and Adolescence and the Adolescent Research Review. He
also is editor of the Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development
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