By encouraging and requiring that authors share their data in order to publish articles, scholarly journals have become an important actor in the movement to improve the openness of data and the reproducibility of research. But how many social science journals encourage or mandate that authors share the data supporting their research findings? How does the share of journal data policies vary by discipline? What influences these journals’ decisions to adopt such policies and instructions? And what do those policies and instructions look like? We discuss the results of our analysis of the instructions and policies of 291 highly-ranked journals publishing social science research, where we studied the contents of journal data policies and instructions across 14 variables, such as when and how authors are asked to share their data, and what role journal ranking and age play in the existence and quality of data policies and instructions. We also compare our results to the results of other studies that have analyzed the policies of social science journals, although differences in the journals chosen and how each study defines what constitutes a data policy limit this comparison. We conclude that a little more than half of the journals in our study have data policies. A greater share of the economics journals have data policies and mandate sharing, followed by political science/international relations and psychology journals. Finally, we use our findings to make several recommendations: Policies should include the terms “data,” “dataset” or more specific terms that make it clear what to make available; policies should include the benefits of data sharing; journals, publishers, and associations need to collaborate more to clarify data policies; and policies should explicitly ask for qualitative data.
This paper has won the IASSIST & Carto 2018 Best Paper award.