VLAEMINCK: Replication Requires Data Depositories – Introducing EDaWaX

EDaWaX stands for European Data Watch Extended.  It recently introduced a new service, the “ZBW Journal Data Archive”, to assist journals in storing and managing published economic research.  This new service of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW) is free of charge to academic journals.  Here is EDaWaX’s story.
The project European Data Watch Extended (EDaWaX) started in fall 2011, after editors of a scholarly journal in economics discussed the idea of developing a suitable infrastructure for replication files of economic journals jointly with ZBW. The partners received funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG).
For several decades, researchers such as the economist B.D. McCullough have highlighted the poor record of replicability in applied economic research. Out of this came a call for journals to implement mandatory data availability policies with corresponding data archives. However, a suitable infrastructure did not exist.  A notable exception was Dataverse – developed by IQSS at Harvard University.  Indeed, Dataverse, has evolved as a data depository for both individuals and journals (such as Economics E-Journal and Review of Economics and Statistics).
For ZBW, EDaWaX was one of its first projects in the field of research data management. Together with partners from the German Data Forum, the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition and – at a later stage – the Research Data Centre of the Socio-Economic Panel (FDZ-SOEP), EDaWaX started by evaluating the existing state of affairs. This analysis included examinations of journal data policies, data sharing behaviour of economists and surveys on perceptions of editorial offices towards data availability policies. EDaWaX then checked if services for journals to manage replication data were available among scientific infrastructure service providers in Germany and elsewhere.
From these beginnings, the project created a web-based application and developed a metadata scheme. The application uses CKAN – an open source software broadly used by open data portals of public sector entities around the globe. At the end of EDaWaX’s first funding term, a pilot application was available and, in late autumn 2013, the project presented its solution to a gathering of journal editors in the social sciences.
In the second funding period, between 2014 and 2016, the project worked on enhancing the application and making it fit for service. A key focus was developing the capability of the metadata component. Dealing with metadata is a balancing act: On the one hand, one would like to have as much metadata for the replication files as possible, because well described data and files are much more likely to be reused. In addition, the metadata can be used to discover the replication files in disciplinary portals, search engines and so on. But on the other hand, researchers are not willing to invest much of their time in creating metadata. Therefore, the project spent much effort to lower the burden of creating metadata.  The key was automatisation whenever possible.  Another feature was making the metadata field adaptable for different resources (e.g. datasets need more additional context information, while program code or documentation need less).
In addition, EDaWaX also implemented the possibility to mint DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) for replication files. The main idea behind using a Persistent Identifier is to credit researchers for their investment of time and for sharing their data: The data can be cited appropriately (just like a traditional publication) and therefore authors gain an incentive to share and to document their data.
Finally, an important task was to present the web service to the community. The project held several workshops at annual meetings of German learned societies in economics and management, but also presented its work at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Economic Association (ASSA). In total the project gave more than 27 talks and workshops at national and international conferences.
Working with the web service is easy and time-saving for editorial offices: In a nutshell, editorial offices have to register their authors to the ZBW Journal Data Archive. The authors subsequently receive an email and create their personal accounts. Afterwards, authors may deposit the replication files of their articles at the journal data archive. In addition, they are asked to describe their files with metadata. For assistance, manuals in English and German are available.
When an author has completed the deposit of his/her replication files, the editorial office receives a notification by the web service. In a next step, the editorial office approves the replication files and checks the metadata for consistency. The editors supplement the URL or DOI of the published article, the page numbers, issue and volume of the journal. Subsequently, the replication files are ready to be published and to receive a DOI. 
Currently, the Journal of Economics and Statistics (listed in the ‘Social Sciences Citation Index’) is utilising the ZBW Journal Data Archive. Other journals will follow in the next months.
Journals and editorial offices interested in employing the ZBW Journal Data Archive are warmly invited to contact the author to learn more about the software and how it can be of service to your journal.
Sven Vlaeminck is Project Manager for Research Data at ZBW – German National Library of Economics and the Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. He can be contacted at s.vlaeminck@zbw.eu.


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