For Authors

This Guide to Authors contains a series of policies that we ask authors to read and consider before submitting work to Scientific Data. For detailed information on preparing and formatting a Data Descriptor manuscript please see our submission guidelines and manuscript templates. We also encourage you to read our data deposition policies early in the drafting process.

Aims and scope

Scientific Data is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets, and research that advances the sharing and reuse of scientific data. We aim to promote wider data sharing and reuse, and to credit those that share.

Find out more about the key principles that drive Scientific Data

Scientific Data primarily publishes Data Descriptors, a new type of publication that provides detailed descriptions of research datasets, including the methods used to collect the data and technical analyses supporting the quality of the measurements. Data Descriptors focus on helping others reuse data, rather than testing hypotheses, or presenting new interpretations, methods or in-depth analyses.

Scientific Data also welcomes submissions describing analyses or meta-analyses of existing data, and original articles on systems, technologies and techniques that advance data sharing and reuse to support reproducible research.

Scientific Data offers a streamlined but thorough peer-review process that evaluates the rigour and quality of the experiments used to generate the data and the completeness of the description of the data. The actual data are stored in one or more public, community-recognized repositories, and release of the data is verified as a condition of publication.

Scientific Data is open to submissions from a broad range of natural science disciplines, including, but not limited to, data from the life, biomedical and environmental science communities. Submissions may describe big or small data, from new experiments or value-added aggregations of existing data, from major consortiums and single labs. We are also willing to consider descriptions of quantitative datasets from the social sciences, particularly those that may be of use for integrative analyses that stretch across the traditional discipline boundaries between the life, biomedical, environmental and social sciences.

Data Descriptors may describe data from new or published studies, and can be published alongside traditional research works. Data Descriptors that describe previously published datasets must provide new content sufficient to merit further publication: for example, updates to important datasets, fuller release of a dataset, or additional information that aids reuse. Please see our policies on complementary and prior publication.

Costs

Scientific Data is an open-access publication. To publish in Scientific Data authors are required to pay an article-processing charge (APC). Please see information on our current APC rates and licensing options, as well as our free open access funding support service.

Format of Data Descriptors

Scientific Data publishes descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets under its primary article-type, the Data Descriptor. Please see our submission guidelines to learn how to draft and format your Data Descriptor, and to download a manuscript template. The main elements of a Data Descriptor manuscript are:

  • Title (110 characters maximum, including whitespaces)
  • Abstract (170 words maximum, no references)
  • Background & Summary (700 words maximum)
  • Methods (unlimited length)
  • Data Records (unlimited length)
  • Technical Validation (unlimited length)
  • Usage Notes (unlimited length)
  • Figures (generally no more than three per manuscript)
  • Tables (generally no more than ten per manuscript)

Other content types

An ‘Analysis’ describes a new analysis or meta-analysis of existing data that will be of interest to a broad section of our audience. This format is used by Scientific Data to highlight innovative examples of data reuse, and may be used to present compelling new findings and conclusions derived from published data. Analysis submissions are not required to use data previously published at Scientific Data, although submissions of this kind are encouraged. If the analysis relies on data that were not previously published, the authors may be invited to submit a Data Descriptor. Analysis submissions should exemplify reproducible research by clearly describing all steps in the analysis, providing supporting source code, and explaining how and where others may access all data underlying the analysis.

The ‘Article’ format can be used to present original reports on systems or techniques that clearly advance data sharing and reuse to support reproducible research. This includes research on sharing, managing and processing scientific research data. Articles describing data repositories, standards and ontologies are welcome when they include compelling demonstrations of data exchange, enrichment or knowledge generation made possible by the system or standard. Articles may also present sociological research on data sharing habits or perceptions, or the effectiveness of sharing policies. Computer science or engineering articles describing data processing or analysis techniques may be considered in some cases, when they would be relevant to a broad segment of the journal’s audience.

For Analyses and Articles, the main text (excluding abstract, Methods, references and figure legends) is approximately 3,000 words. The abstract is typically 100-170 words, unreferenced. An Introduction is followed by sections headed Results, Discussion, Methods. The Methods and Results should be divided by topical subheadings; the Discussion does not contain subheadings. The Methods should be followed by References, Data Citations (optional), Acknowledgements and a Competing interests statement. A Data Citation section should be included when externally hosted datasets are referred to in the work and each can be cited formally with a unique, stable identifier and repository name.

Comment’ is a flexible format used to publish brief opinions, commentaries and announcements of interest to a broad section of the journal’s readership. Comments should be written in an accessible, non-technical style. They may cover policy issues related to data sharing or provide overviews of Data Descriptor collections. Comments do not normally contain primary research data. Comments are generally 1-5 pages in length, with a short abstract. They may include one figure or table, and up to 25 references. Comments are approved by our Editorial Board and may be peer reviewed in-depth at the editors' discretion.

Comments are generally invited, but proposals are welcome in the form of a presubmission enquiry.

Submission policies

Submission to Scientific Data is taken to imply that the submitted manuscript has not been published elsewhere. Authors may not submit elsewhere while the manuscript is under consideration at Scientific Data. Authors may submit Data Descriptors describing data that have already been publicly released or even analysed in previous research articles, when a new publication would substantially extend the reuse value of these data, but any previous publications related to the dataset must be clearly cited in the Data Descriptor manuscript and discussed in the submission cover letter.

The primary affiliation for each author should be the institution where the majority of the work was done. If an author has subsequently moved, the current address may also be stated. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

If the manuscript includes personal communications, please provide a written statement of permission from any person who is quoted. E-mail permission messages are acceptable.

The corresponding author will be sent proofs, and will be able to correct major scientific errors or inaccuracies in the title or author list, but Scientific Data reserves the right to limit the scope of changes.

Scientific Data reserves the right to reject a Data Descriptor even after it has been accepted if it becomes apparent that there are serious problems with the scientific content or violations of our publishing policies. For information relating to competing financial interests; pre-publication publicity; deposition of data as a condition of publication; availability of data and reagents after publication; human and animal subjects; digital image integrity; biosecurity; corrections and retractions; duplicate publication; confidentiality; and plagiarism, please see the Editorial and publishing policies of Scientific Data.

For information on our editorial process and criteria for publication please see our Guide to referees.

Transfer service

Scientific Data is editorially independent, and the Editors and Editorial Board Members make decisions independently from other Nature Publishing Group journals. It is for authors alone to decide where to submit their manuscripts. For manuscripts that could satisfy the scope of more than one Nature Publishing Group journal, the choice of which journal to submit to first lies with the authors.

Authors may wish to transfer works to Scientific Data after rejection at other journals, especially when the article describes valuable datasets. Our unique format means that, in most cases, the article will have to be revised before peer review. If a manuscript is rejected from a Nature Publishing Group journal, the authors can use an automated manuscript transfer service to submit the manuscript to Scientific Data.

Data Descriptor publications are designed to complement traditional research publications, and in certain cases Nature-titled journals will not consider previously published Data Descriptor publications to compromise the novelty of new manuscript submissions (please see our editorial policies on Complementary and Prior Publication). When authors have related research articles under consideration at another journal, we encourage them to check with the editors of that journal to make sure that publication of a Data Descriptor will not conflict with that of related manuscripts. Any related works that have been published previously must be mentioned and cited clearly in submitted manuscripts.

Copies of any papers containing similar or related work that are under consideration or in press at other journals should be included with the submission as additional supplementary information. Authors are asked to discuss any related works in their cover letter. Failure to provide copies of related works may delay editorial evaluation of a submission.

Peer review

For each submitted Data Descriptor manuscript, the Honorary Academic Editor and the in-house Managing Editor will decide, in consultation, which submissions will be sent out for in-depth peer review based on their appropriateness for Scientific Data’s scope and the reuse value of the associated data. For works that are deemed appropriate, an Editorial Board Member will be assigned to oversee the peer-review process. Editorial Board Members may also choose to recommend rejection without peer review for works that do not meet Scientific Data’s scope or standards, based on their own experience and expertise.

For works that are sent out for in-depth peer review, the Editorial Board Member will invite one or more referees to evaluate the submission. After consideration, the Editorial Board Member will make one of the following decisions:

  • Accept, with or without editorial revisions
  • Request a minor revision, affording authors one month to revise their manuscript to address specific concerns
  • Request a major revision, affording authors three months to revise their manuscript to address significant concerns and perhaps undertake additional work
  • Reject outright

Final decisions are made by the Editor in consultation with the Editorial Board Member overseeing the manuscript.

At the submission stage, authors may indicate a limited number of scientists who should not review their Data Descriptor. Excluded scientists must be identified by name. Authors may also suggest potential referees; these suggestions are often helpful, although they are not always followed. By policy, referees are not identified to the authors, except at the request of the referee.

You can find out more about the review process at Scientific Data, and our criteria for publication, in our Guide for referees.

Decision after review

In cases where the referees have requested well-defined changes to the manuscript that do not appear to require extensive further experiments, the Editor may offer authors the possibility of preparing a revised manuscript that addresses the referees’ concerns. The decision letter will specify a deadline, and revisions that are returned within this period will retain their original submission date. In cases where the referees’ concerns are more wide-ranging, the Editor will normally reject the manuscript. If the Editor feels the work is of potential interest to the journal, however, he or she may express interest in seeing a future resubmission. The resubmitted manuscript may be sent back to the original referees, or to new referees, at the Editor’s discretion. In such cases, revised manuscripts will not retain their earlier submission date. In either case, the revised manuscript should be accompanied by a cover letter explaining how the manuscript has been changed. An invited revision should be submitted via the revision link to the online submission system provided in the decision letter, not as a new manuscript.

Final submission and acceptance

When all editorial issues are resolved, the Data Descriptor is formally accepted. The received date is when the Editor received the original manuscript. The accepted date is when the Editor sends the acceptance letter. Corresponding authors are sent proofs; however, the production process does not allow minor changes. Only changes in the title or author list, or to correct major scientific errors, will be permitted at this stage. All corrections will be approved by the publishing team. Scientific Data reserves the right to make the final decision about matters of style and the size of figures.

Appeals

Even in cases where Scientific Data does not invite resubmission, some authors may ask the Editorial Board to reconsider a rejection decision. These are considered appeals, which, by policy, must take second place to the normal workload. In practice, this means that decisions on appeals often take several weeks. Only one appeal is permitted for each manuscript, and appeals can only take place after peer review. Decisions are reversed on appeal only if the Editor and relevant Editorial Board Member are convinced that the original decision was a serious mistake, not merely a borderline call that could have gone either way. Further consideration may be merited if a referee made substantial errors of fact or showed evidence of bias, but only if a reversal of that referee’s opinion would have changed the original decision. Similarly, disputes on factual issues need not be resolved unless they were critical to the outcome. If an appeal merits further consideration, the Editor or Editorial Board Member may send the authors’ response or the revised Data Descriptor to the original referees or additional experts.

Editorial and publishing policies

Please see our full editorial and publishing policies. The following information can be found in this document:

Contact information

For general editorial enquiries relating to Scientific Data, including manuscript submission queries, and for enquiries relating to the Advisory Panel or the Editorial Board, please contact scientificdata@nature.com. Please see our Contact page for more detailed information.

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