Don’t miss this interesting example how scientists collaborate to continually update data charts in an article, mind you a published article in F1000Research (F1000).
The scientist of the original article, Björn Brembs, wrote software that automatically redraws one of the figures (see: figure 4) as new data from his collaborators become available.
But what’s the benefit? Why would scientists give up the chance to publish a paper of their own? A few perspectives from the original Nature news post:
We’re sacrificing a bit of recognition, (…) it’s a more accessible way for scientists to get the answer than if we publish separately. – Gregg Roman, University of Houston, Texas
The idea is that it better mirrors the way science is conducted. In addition to updating work, living figures may allow systematic reviews to be updated rather than published afresh each time. They should also help to address the issue of lack of reproducibility, because it provides a way for laboratories to release confirmatory data, which can be hard to get published. – Rebecca Lawrence, managing director of the publishing platform F1000
As for getting credit, there are a few options that may support the wider adoption of this approach:
…new contributors’ names do appear in the legend of updated figures; and the updated data set and paper get their own DOIs. Alternatively, contributors can choose to gain a formal publication by submitting what F1000Research calls a Data Note that links to the original updated paper.
If the new contributors’ methods or results differ significantly from the original paper’s, then they can publish a Research Note. They can also request that the original authors update their article. An updated paper would be peer reviewed again.
This is a heartening example of collaborative science that shows interesting potential for boosting reproducibly in research. But the inclusion of these types of contributions into the academic reward and advancement system will be required to turn initiatives like this one into long-lasting change in academia.