Open data and digital morphology

Tom Davies, Imran Rahman, Stephan Lautenschlager, John A Cunningham, Robert J Asher, Paul M Barrett, Karl T Bates, Stefan Bengtson, Roger B J Benson, Doug M Boyer, José Braga, Jen A Bright, Leon P A M Claessens, Philip G Cox, Xi-Ping Dong, Alistair R Evans, Peter L Falkingham, Matt Friedman, Russell J Garwood, Anjali GoswamiJohn R Hutchinson, Nathan S Jeffery, Zerina Johanson, Renaud Lebrun, Carlos Martínez-Pérez, Jesús Marugán-Lobón, Paul M O'Higgins, Brian Metscher, Maëva Orliac, Timothy B Rowe, Martin Rücklin, Marcelo R Sánchez-Villagra, Neil H Shubin, Selena Y Smith, J Matthias Starck, Chris Stringer, Adam P Summers, Mark D Sutton, Stig A Walsh, Vera Weisbecker, Lawrence M Witmer, Stephen Wroe, Zongjun Yin, Emily J Rayfield*, Philip C J Donoghue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)
450 Downloads (Pure)


Over the past two decades, the development of methods for visualizing and analysing specimens digitally, in three and even four dimensions, has transformed the study of living and fossil organisms. However, the initial promise that the widespread application of such methods would facilitate access to the underlying digital data has not been fully achieved. The underlying datasets for many published studies are not readily or freely available, introducing a barrier to verification and reproducibility, and the reuse of data. There is no current agreement or policy on the amount and type of data that should be made available alongside studies that use, and in some cases are wholly reliant on, digital morphology. Here, we propose a set of recommendations for minimum standards and additional best practice for three-dimensional digital data publication, and review the issues around data storage, management and accessibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170194
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1852
Early online date12 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2017


  • Computed tomography
  • Digital data
  • Functional analysis
  • Phenotype
  • Three-dimensional models
  • Visualization


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