Solved – As a reviewer, can I justify requesting data and code be made available even if the journal does not

As science must be reproducible, by definition, there is increasing recognition that data and code are an essential component of the reproduciblity, as discussed by the Yale Roundtable for data and code sharing.

In reviewing a manuscript for a journal that does not require data and code sharing, can I request that the data and code be made available

  1. to me at the time of review
  2. publicly at time of publication (the journal supports supplements)

also, how might I phrase such a request?

update: although I am interested in the general case, this particular case consists of a meta-analysis with all previously published data, and the code is simple linear models in SAS

side note the ability to make cross-study inference (as is the goal of meta-analysis) would be greatly enhanced if more studies provided raw data

update 2:

I requested the data and code from the editor for purposes of review, the editor considered the request reasonable, and I have received the requested material (sufficient but with cryptic variable names, no metadata, and few inline comments) within a day.

As far as getting data as a reviewer goes, you're entitled to it if you need it to complete your review properly. More reviewers should be asking for data and assessing it. Lots of journals have policies that they may require the data and analysis code for review purposes.

Availability at the time of publication isn't clear to me. It seems that you're saying that you want to force the issue that the data be made publicly available as a condition of publication. That's a bad idea if it's not journal policy already. You're making publication an unfair moving target. They submitted expecting that not to be a requirement and you, nor the editor, ought to be changing the game.

Unbeknownst to many researchers publicly funded researchers, they are required to make their data publicly available. For example, most NIH grants have clauses where the researcher must be forthcoming with their data. Most government granting agencies have data sharing clauses that force the researcher to share what they find (perhaps force is a bit strong given that it's very hard to lose a grant over that… perhaps lose renewal though). The public paid for the data, therefore the public is entitled to it—in the case of human research, entitled to it anonymized.

Some of the most expensive and sensitive data to collect, human FMRI data, is also some of the most commonly made publicly available. Not just PLoS, but major journals of the field require the submission of the data and maintain a publicly available data bank. I think this says a lot to people who object for reasons of cost (it's very expensive), and privacy (it's human data from small studies and sometimes unique clinical populations that could be very sensitive). Those are reasons that make that data more valuable to the public. Researchers who withhold such data are doing a disservice to the people who bought it (everyone), and need a lesson in what their responsibilities are outside of their little lab and publication competition.

If the research was privately funded, genuinely privately funded, then best of luck.

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