The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) distributes a variety of different snow cover products derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS). The results of a quick analysis of how many scientific papers mention use of “MODIS Snow Cover Data” (according to Google Scholar) and how often the data sets themselves are formally cited shows a huge disparity, illustrating the infrequency of proper data citation in practice. Moreover, the lack of data citation standards introduces the possibility that informal references to data do not point to the exact data set actually used.
FIGURE 18-1 MODIS snow cover data in Google Scholar.
There are a number of data citation guidelines available to scientists. These include the ones from the International Polar Year and DataCite project. Also, institutions such as NASA and NOAA request acknowledgments. Overall, approaches range from specific data citation, to general acknowledgment, to recommending citing a journal article or even a presentation. This is reflected also in the results of this study titled “Data Citation in the Wild” by Enriquez et al. (2010):
We found that few policies recommend robust data citation practices: in our preliminary evaluation, only one-third of repositories (n=26), 6% of journals (n=307), and 1 of 53 funders suggested a best practice for data citation. We manually reviewed 500 papers published between 2000 and 2010 across six journals; of the 198 papers that reused datasets, only 14% reported a unique dataset identifier in their dataset attribution, and a partially-overlapping 12% mentioned the author name and repository name. Few citations to datasets themselves were made in the article references section.3
This shows clearly that the data author is not being fairly credited.
3 Available at: http://openwetware.org/wiki/DataONE:Notebook/Summer_2010.