Open Data in Science

I’m delighted to be part of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s new initiative on “Open Data in Science”. Here’s Jonathan Gray’s email:

Hi all,

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new Working Group on Open
Data in Science. In the first instance, the group will aim to:

  • Act as a central point of reference and support for people who
    think they are interested in open data in science.
  • Identify practices of early adopters, collecting data and
    developing guides.
  • Act as a hub for the development of low cost, community driven
    projects around open data in science.

We are currently working on:

  • a prize for open data in science
  • a service to request that a given dataset to be made open or to
    request clarification about whether or not it can be re-used
  • case studies on the benefits of open data in different domains

Further details can be found at:

Jonathan Gray

Community Coordinator
The Open Knowledge Foundation

Open Data has come a long way in the last 2-3 years. In 2006 the term was rarely used – I badgered SPARC and they generously created a set up a mailing list. I also started a page on Wikipedia in 2006 so it’s 2-and-a-half years old.

Now “open data” is a widely used phrase. I don’t know how many people regard “Open Data” as a term, but when they do I hope they’ll concentrate on positive action. We’ve restricted the OKF effort to Science because it’s important and it’s bounded. The logic of the case is very simple:

  • Science rests on data. Without complete data, science is flawed.
  • Many of todays global challenges require scientific data. Climate, Health, Agriculture…
  • Scientists are funded to do research and to make the results available to everyone. This includes the data. Funders expect this. So does the world.
  • The means of dissemination of data are cheap and universal. There is no technical reason why all the data in all the chemistry research in the world should not be published into the cloud. It’s small compared with movies…
  • Data needs cleaning, flitering, repurposing, re-using. The more people who have access to this, the better the data and the better the science.

Some of the lack of data publication is just laziness. However some is the active non-cooperation or even antagonism of some publishers. The WG will be addressing this and seein if we can help change some views – in a constructive manner…

And my enormous thanks to Jonathan, Rufis and others for the energy they have put into taking this forward.

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