ACS: How much do you want?

Today I unexpectedly ventured far from my comfort zone to learn about ketosamines and 2-deoxyglucose in cancer treatment on one hand, and boronic acid-based sensors on the other, so I will not attempt to explain the details here as I would undoubtedly get many things wrong. Instead, I have an important question for you.

I got into an interesting conversation this afternoon with two card-carrying chemical biologists (by which I mean, they not only do chemical biology research BUT read our editorials!!) who were curious about our recent editorial calling for the more judicious use of ‘data not shown’. One scientist made the point that it is reasonable to use this term when you have the data, and the data could be produced upon the request of an interested referee or reader, but it’s obvious from the text how the data look and so there’s no great need to show every tiny detail. The other scientist said that it’s better for all relevant information/data to be available in the paper, so that it can easily be reproduced and so it’s not necessary to call on the author to produce the data at some later point (especially considering that online Supp. Info. is pretty unlimited these days).

The question is: what data should be shown? What is completely obvious and really just takes up space? What may be completely obvious but is still critical to be included? What do people think is obvious but is not? For example, does just listing NMR peaks and splittings constitute ‘data not shown’, and should we obtain copies of all the original spectra? What about showing the data points/plots used to calculate IC50 values vs. just listing the numbers? Are you annoyed if people include too much information? How could methods be presented more clearly? Why do we need all this data shown – do we not trust each other to do/interpret the work properly, or not trust each other to report our work accurately, or is it simply a matter of having a complete scientific record?

Anyway, I may not know much about ketosamines, but I did read somewhere that you need sleep to help prevent cancer, so I’d best get to it!

Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)