The Figshare API: Why Your Unpublished Research Could Spell Progress

Greg Bates, December 17th, 2012

figshareFigshare’s aim is to make unpublished research and data accessible by publishing it using a liberal creative commons. Research is posted in a citable manner. Recognizing that some research needs to be kept private, Figshare also provides account holders with a free gig for private storage. Uploading is straightforward and Figshare accepts any file format. Researchers uploading material get a profile page, and are encourage to share as much as possible to increase their impact. The Figshare REST API amplifies the impact of the shared data by giving developers access. It employs an OAuth 1.0 protocol. The API documentation has sample code for Python, PHP and Ruby.

Figshare is working to beef up what will be a core of its offering, search. Data and research are no good if you can’t discover it. Material is already searchable by research fields, metrics and data type. Figleaf wants to up their game.

Figshare is working to also index the uploaded files (metadata and content). Soon the search engine will also offer the posibility to search inside the uploaded files.

Figshare’s data is useful to the initiative on reproducibility in science of the Public Library of Science (PLOS). The initiative argues for doing experiments multiple times. While this may sound like the scientific equivalent of the department of redundancy department, scientific do overs are important, as Damian Pattinson described in a PLOs blog,

Reproducibility, or the lack thereof, is a known issue in the scientific community, but few have the time or resources to fully address it. The Reproducibility Initiative is intended to encourage authors to validate their work by facilitating collaboration with an unbiased expert, and offering a Certificate of Reproducibility upon completion. This project will benefit stakeholders from across the research spectrum, including research scientists, drug companies, publishers, funders, and patient groups, all of whom agree that independent confirmation of results improves science and speeds discovery.

Figshare is key to the effort because it provides a means of sharing raw data fast.

In another PLOS Blog, Fabiana Kubke, writing about what he learned from his dad, illuminates how sharing data from “failed experiments” can be important.

All experiments work, even those that give us an unexpected result. What I learned from dad is that being a good scientist is not abut dismissing “bad experiments” and discarding the results, but more about looking deeper into what variables might have led to a different result. In many cases, it might be a bad chemical batch – in others it might uncover a crucial variable that defines the boundaries of validity of a result.

Figshare, through its sharing of scientific data, makes it possible to turn “failed experiments” and unpublished research into stepping stones.

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