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I think they treat it as pl. because apart from the sentence you found in OG, I also found a sentence containing "data are ..." from GMAT PREP, and it does not in the underlined part. So it's right in GMAT's rule as a plural form. Maybe we just have to remember it.
The original sentence is here: Those skeptical of the extent of global warming argue that short-term temperature data are an inadequate means of predicting long-term trends and point out that the scientific community remains divided on whether significant warming will occur and what impact will it have if it does.
Management Leadership of Tomorrow (MLT) - MBA Programs Fellow MLT LA Chapter - Board Member / Recruiting Officer Net Impact - Professional Chapter Co-President MBADiversity Organization - Global Fellow, CHINA