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The impact of a year of Open Code at PLOS Computational Biology

Written by Lindsay Morton

A year ago, in response to community desire for a strong position on code sharing, and in acknowledgement of the immense value that code adds to the scientific literature, PLOS Computational Biology introduced a new code-sharing policy. The policy requires that any code supporting a publication be shared (unless there are ethical or legal restrictions that prevent sharing).

Now, a new editorial reports the results of an analysis of code-sharing behavior at the journal both before and after the policy implementation. The investigation found that, “the rate of code sharing for research articles published in PLOS Computational Biology before the policy was implemented was 53% in 2019 and 61% in 2020. This rose to 73% for research articles published in 2021, which includes a high proportion of research articles that were submitted before the policy was implemented.” When looking only at articles submitted after the introduction of the policy, the code-sharing rate is 87%. For comparison, it is estimated that more than 99.5% of research articles published in the journal between 2019 and 2022 generated code that supported the research presented.

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Figure 1. Code sharing rates (% of research articles that share code) of PLOS Computational Biology articles, based on the time of publication.

This remarkable increase demonstrates the efficacy of a policy-based approach to code-sharing. “These results show that the mandatory code sharing policy is such a great fit for the computational biology community. Many researchers were already showing great commitment to openness and transparency by voluntarily sharing code before the policy came into effect and now the policy just helps to cement this as the norm for the field.” said Lauren Cadwallader, Open Research Manager at PLOS and one of the authors of the editorial. 

Read the full editorial in PLOS Computational Biology.

Explore the dataset and code.

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