A theme in Nature’s ongoing campaign for the replicability and reproducibility of our research papers is that key components of publications should be available to peers who wish to validate the techniques and results.
A core element of many papers is the computercode used by authors in models, simulations and data analysis. In an ideal world, this code would always be transportable and easily used by others. In such a world, our editorial policy would be to insist on sharing to allow free use, as we already do (as far as is practicable) with data and research materials. Unfortunately, such an ideal is not easy to attain owing to the amount of extra funding and effort it would require to render some major pieces of code shareable. Nevertheless, we at Nature and the Nature research journals want to encourage as much sharing as possible.
Climate modellers have made some strides in this regard. The journal Geoscientific Model Development has a good example of such a policy (see go.nature.com/jv8g1w), and an article in Nature Geoscience discusses some of the opportunities presented by code sharing, as well as the obstacles (S. M. Easterbrook Nature Geosci. 7, 779–781; 2014).
As a leading example of transparency policies in other disciplines, the data journal GigaScience requires code used in its papers to be available, and hosts it in a way that allows others to analyse the data in publications. One point made by Easterbrook is that even if the code is shared, others might often make little or no use of it, but on some occasions the take-up will be large.
Nature and the Nature journals have decided that, given the diversity of practices in the disciplines we cover, we cannot insist on sharing computer code in all cases. But we can go further than we have in the past, by at least indicating when code is available. Accordingly, our policy now mandates that when code is central to reaching a paper’s conclusions, we require a statement describing whether that code is available and setting out any restrictions on accessibility. Editors will insist on availability where they consider it appropriate: any practical issues preventing code sharing will be evaluated by the editors, who reserve the right to decline a paper if important code is unavailable. Moreover, we will provide a dedicated section in articles in which any information on computer code can be placed. And we will work with individual communities to put together best-practice guidelines and possibly more-detailed rules.
For full details, see our guide for authors at go.nature.com/o5ykhe. For an archive of our content and initiatives concerning reproducibility, see http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/reproducibility.
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