Availability of research data in high-impact alcohol and drug journals with data sharing policies
Background. Among the various measures recently proposed to improve the integrity and quality of published research, data sharing has received considerable attention and policies designed to encourage this have been implemented by many academic journals. Despite such interest, empirical studies of the extent to which journal data sharing policies result in greater public availability of research data have produced mixed results. The research described in this presentation is the first to examine this issue in relation to journals in the field of alcohol and drug studies.
Methods. The journals reviewed were selected from the 39 journals included in the substance abuse category of the 2017 Clarivate Analytics’ Journal Citation Report (JCR). Of these journals, 34 publish original data pertaining to alcohol and drug use, and 25 include a data sharing policy in their instructions to authors. The 12 highest impact journals among these 25 were included the current review; these were the journals with the highest JCR Impact Factor and/or highest Scimago H-Index. The first 10 papers in the most recent complete issue of each of the 12 journals were reviewed. Any full or short research report that included empirical data was included in the analysis. Systematic reviews meta-analyses were excluded, as were papers that employed mathematical models, reported exclusively qualitative analyses or analyses of secondary datasets. Each of the 120 papers was reviewed manually for any reference to where its data could be obtained and for a formal data sharing statement. Each journal was also searched for the word “data” in order to identify any reference to data sharing or availability.
Results. Of the 12 journals included in the review, eight were in the top 10 for both JCR Impact Factor and Scimago H-Index, two were in the top 10 of the JCR Impact Factor but not Scimago H-Index, and two were in the top 10 of the Scimago H-Index but not JCR Impact Factor. Of the 120 papers reviewed, none contained a formal data sharing statement and only seven made any reference to the availability of the data analyzed in the paper. Six of these papers stated the following in the supplementary data linked to the online version of the article: “Data not available/Data will be made available on request.” Only one paper contained a direct link to the data used in the analyses it presented.
Conclusions. Data sharing was almost entirely absent from the 120 papers from top-tier drug and alcohol journals reviewed and data sharing statements were very rare. These results are in line with those from previous studies of articles published in journals from academic disciplines such as medicine and biology. Even high-impact journals with mandatory data sharing policies have been shown to have low compliance rates, so it is hardly surprising that the policies encouraging sharing adopted by drug and alcohol journals should result in such meagre data availability. If journals in the field of drug and alcohol studies are serious about facilitating data sharing, they must develop and enforcement much more stringent policies.