International attention to scientific data continues to grow. Opportunities emerge to re-visit long-standing approaches to managing data and to critically examine new capabilities. We describe the cognitive importance of metaphor. We describe several metaphors for managing, sharing, and stewarding data and examine their strengths and weaknesses. We particularly question the applicability of a “publication” approach to making data broadly available. Our preliminary conclusions are that no one metaphor satisfies enough key data system attributes and that multiple metaphors need to co-exist in support of a healthy data ecosystem. We close with proposed research questions and a call for continued discussion.