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Recent data can be hidden, making fact-checking more difficult

The problem is that rapid and pervasive technological advances have changed the game. Although some argue that our unprecedented capacity to acquire, store, manipulate and transmit vast and complex data volumes places us on the verge of a second scientific revolution, it can also serve to make the data on which an argument is based inaccessible.

The evidence underlying a published scientific argument, including the full details of experiments and observations, all the data and an assessment of uncertainties, could once be contained between the covers of a journal article. Mega-, giga- or terabytes of data deny us that option. Fraudulent practice too frequently hides beneath an impenetrable data carapace, so that we need to find new ways of reasserting the historical values of openness. The authors of a Royal Society report, Science as an Open Enterprise, published in June, argue that where the thesis of a scientific paper depends on large data volumes that cannot be reproduced in the paper, the data must be concurrently accessible in a specified database so that other specialists in the same field can test its reproducibility and explore whether the thesis is supported by the data.

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