The scientific enterprise depends critically on the preservation of and open access to published data. This basic tenet applies acutely to phylogenies (estimates of evolutionary relationships among species). Increasingly, phylogenies are estimated from increasingly large, genome-scale datasets using increasingly complex statistical methods that require increasing levels of expertise and computational investment. Moreover, the resulting phylogenetic data provide an explicit historical perspective that critically informs research in a vast and growing number of scientific disciplines. One such use is the study of changes in rates of lineage diversification (speciation – extinction) through time. As part of a meta-analysis in this area, we sought to collect phylogenetic data (comprising nucleotide sequence alignment and tree files) from 217 studies published in 46 journals over a 13-year period. We document our attempts to procure those data (from online archives and by direct request to corresponding authors), and report results of analyses (using Bayesian logistic regression) to assess the impact of various factors on the success of our efforts. Overall, complete phylogenetic data for of these studies are effectively lost to science. Our study indicates that phylogenetic data are more likely to be deposited in online archives and/or shared upon request when: (1) the publishing journal has a strong data-sharing policy; (2) the publishing journal has a higher impact factor, and; (3) the data are requested from faculty rather than students. Importantly, our survey spans recent policy initiatives and infrastructural changes; our analyses indicate that the positive impact of these community initiatives has been both dramatic and immediate. Although the results of our study indicate that the situation is dire, our findings also reveal tremendous recent progress in the sharing and preservation of phylogenetic data.
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