Credit where credit’s due: How and why to cite data

If your research papers are based on data, you should make sure you cite those data as you would any other research output.force 11 data citation principles

According to the UK Data Service, data are a vital part of the scientific research process and proper citation should be a significant feature of research publications. Data citation:

  • acknowledges the author’s sources
  • makes identifying data easier
  • promotes the reproduction of research results
  • makes it easier to find data
  • allows the impact of data to be tracked
  • provides a structure which recognises and can reward data creators

In 2014, FORCE11 drew up a set of Data Citation Principles (see box, right), these high level recommendations for the research community emphasise the importance of data citation.

The use of DOIs for research data was identified as one of the recommendations in the Metric Tide report (summarised by Nicola in an earlier blog post):

“The use of digital object identifiers (DOIs) should be extended to cover all research outputs… DOIs already predominate in the journal publishing sphere – they should be extended to cover other outputs where no identifier system exists, such as book chapters and datasets” (HEFCE, 2015)

Ideally, all publicly available research data should be assigned a persistent identifier (like a DOI) to ensure long-term discoverability and availability. If you deposit your data in a well-established, trusted data repository or archive your data should be assigned with a DOI (or other identifier). It is important to include these identifiers as part of your citations whenever available, to encourage future data re-use and enable the tracking of citations.

Despite the clear drivers for citing data, in her post for the e-science community blog: Tracking the impacts of data, Stacy Konkiel notes that

“as few as 25% of journal articles tend to formally cite data.”

So, it’s time to give credit where credit’s due and cite the data you’re using in your research publications.

In order to raise the profile of research data citation, the UK Data Service has introduced a #CiteTheData campaign, find them on Twitter @UKDSImpact.

Find out more

The following resources may help you to understand more about why and how to cite research data:


About Isabel Chadwick

Research Support Librarian at the Open University. I look after ORDO, the institutional research data repository and provide guidance and training on all thing research data related.
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