Journal of Neuroscience eliminates supplemental material

The Journal of Neuroscience is eliminating supplemental material.

This is a big step backwards and I don’t understand the reason for it. Now that there is no technical or economic reason not to, we need to be encouraging scientists to publish their raw data (in fact, I think that this should be a requirement of publication).

I understand why it’s impractical to peer review supplemental material. What I don’t understand is why the Journal doesn’t host a repository of non-peer reviewed supplemental material for each article (preferably a version-controlled repository that can be updated after publication, although all old versions would remain publicly accessible).

The article above admits that, “the financial costs of storing extra material electronically are small”. The only reason given for not hosting non-peer reviewed supplemental material is: “Allowing The Journal to host supplemental material that has not been peer reviewed is not an option that the Society for Neuroscience is willing to support”. That’s not a reason, that’s an announcement of a decision without a rationale.

The article above says, “Perhaps the biggest concern with the new policy is that authors’ sites may stop being supported after some period. [No, the biggest concern is that scientists won’t bother to post their raw data if they have to bother with setting up webhosting for it, but I digress…]. However, supplemental material is inherently inessential…”. But how is raw data “inherently inessential”? Just because it is not peer reviewed does not mean it is not essential. Isn’t the data the most essential thing (in an experimental paper, at least)?

I don’t understand it. Doesn’t the Society for Neuroscience think that raw data should be made available?

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2 thoughts on “Journal of Neuroscience eliminates supplemental material

  1. Supplemental material does necessarily mean raw data. If the material is critical to the paper, it should be in it. In other journals the experimental methods section seem to have disappeared (or become very terse), and in its place is a very poorly written, unreviewed attachment called “supplementary information.”

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  2. @physicist:

    perhaps you meant to say, “Supplemental material does NOT necessarily mean raw data”? I would be OK with the elimination of most supplemental material if an exception were made for (1) raw data and (2) source code. In fact, I think the publication of raw data and source code should be required (the methods section should be considered incomplete if the complete source code of all analysis routines is not published, and the results section should be considered incomplete if the complete raw data is not published).

    re “if the material is critical to the paper, it should be in it”: raw data is always critical to the paper, but I don’t think it should always be in the page limited, peer reviewed portion of it.

    on terse methods sections: depends on how long a complete exposition of the methods would be as a fraction of the page limit for the article. For example, if a proper exposition of the methods would consume 90% of the article, then I think the authors should put a terse exposition in the body of the article and put the rest elsewhere.

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