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Published discussions on data stewardship often focus on standardized datasets whose reuse patterns are known. Improvements in stewardship of animal behavior data are virtually absent and lag behind other disciplines such as molecular biology and systematics. In this essay, we discuss best practices of three key aspects related to the collection and archival of behavioral data: data supporting published results; data collected from field observations; and the potential of museum specimens as source of data to animal behavior and ecology. To quantify how much data is shared in publications we reviewed selected journals in animal behavior and behavioral ecology. We found that only an extremely small proportion of the articles published in 2013 made even part of their data available. We discuss about the benefits of making data available, review resources available for data archiving and provide practical guidance for ethologists. We discuss and provide examples of the amount of ethological and ecological data that can be recorded during field observations. To investigate the potential of museum specimens as source of data, we surveyed researchers working in areas related to ecology, animal behavior, and systematics. Both ethologists and systematists agreed that natural history information stored in collections would be a valuable source of data. We make recommendations to enhance data collection and stewardship from the point of view of researchers in animal behavior sciences, considering the special characteristics of the discipline and the type of data that is often produced. We suggest that there is a large amount of crucial data about natural history, ecology and behavior that investigators could glean from collections. Although it is difficult to appreciate the relevance of data for future studies at the time of publication, such data may inspire fruitful opportunities that we cannot afford to lose.
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