My latest paper and why I am somewhat proud of it

These days my latest paper has been published.

To say it most frankly: This is not big science. The paper reports the isolation and structure elucidation of two compounds from a fungus, and neither is the core structure of these compounds novel nor do they have some remarkable bioactivity. It will be only interesting for a few scientists working in the field, and nobody would have missed the results had I not published them.

But still – I am somewhat proud of this paper for three reasons:

  • I have published this work in an Open Access journal dedicated to Natural Product Research (I have discussed this journal before). I am both a Natural Product and an Open Access freak, so the combination of these two fields is brilliant.
  • The data for this publication comes from my time as a PhD student – they slept on my hard disc for nine long years. No data deserve to be in prison for so long, so I just needed to set them free!
  • I have deposited the complete MS and NMR data in an open repository (figshare), so that everyone interested can download the data and have a look at the raw NMR spectra.

Especially the last point is most important for me. How often have I been frustrated because the NMR spectra shown in the Supporting Information have been only of little help, printed on one page as they are? And to come back to this recent paper: I contacted the authors of a paper discussing similar compounds and asked them for a spectrum to compare with my own spectrum – and the answer I received was “Actually it is a great honor for us to attract your attention in our work. Actually me, as i am the first author of the article, i did not find the charts as i am no longer in Japan now, that paper was during my PhD in Japan, now i returned back home but unfortunatelly i could not find it with my documents here.” What kind of science scrutiny is this?! Had they uploaded their data somewhere…

We have arrived in 2013 – it is absolutely no problem to deposit hundreds of MB of raw data “in the cloud” where anybody interested can download the data free of charge and play with them. I sincerely wish this would become the standard in Natural Product Research, where correct interpretation of e.g. NMR data as well as comparison of data to facilitate structure elucidation are so important.

Funnily enough, the publisher, Springer, makes mentioning this in the manuscript harder than necessary. It has not been possible to write the sentence “Complete NMR raw data are available for download at…” in the Supporting Information paragraph at the end of the paper, as this paragraph cannot be modified by the authors. How strange – the ACS allows writing there freely – why does Springer not? Furthermore, the paragraph dictated by Springer contains the phrase “[Supplementary material] is accessible for authorized users”. How much sense does this make for an Open Access journal? And what kind of access rights does one need to download a Supporting Information file? This kind of stuff has never been behind any pay wall with any publisher (at least as far as I know…).

However, my two main messages for today:

Do not imprison your research data!

Do not only publish open access – also publish your raw data!

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