Developing a common structural framework for data papers

Describing the structure of data papers through analysis of journals, their templates and guidelines

Map excerpt from data paper "GPS tracking data of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast" by Stienen et al published 2016 in Zookeys.
Map excerpt from data paper by Stienen et al. in Zookeys describing a bird tracking dataset.

Many institutions, including GBIF, encourage sharing of research data through data papers that extend metadata in a way that mirrors the traditional scientific publication model. Dozens of journals now accept data papers, however, as highlighted by this study, they lack a common standard.

By reviewing submission templates and guidelines from 26 data journals, the authors describe a unifying framework consisting mainly of three distinct components: 1) basic information (e.g. title, abstract, author, etc.), 2) dataset descriptions (i.e. how was data collected, how it formatted, what does it cover, etc.), and 3) relationships (i.e. links and references).

The authors use the proposed framework to highlight the successful case of mapping metadata directly derived from the GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) onto a data paper template that can be edited and submitted to a journal for consideration.

As of September 2017, authors have contributed to more than 50 data papers describing datasets published in GBIF.


Chen Y-N (2017) An analysis of characteristics and structures embedded in data papers: a preliminary study. Libellarium: journal for the research of writing, books, and cultural heritage institutions. University of Zadar 9(2). Available at: