Open Knowledge Foundation OKCon 2010 – what I might say


Open Knowledge Foundation OKCon 2010 – what I might say



I’ve been asked to give a 10-min talk at OKCon 2010 today in London ( in the State of the nation opening section:


Chair: Becky Hogge


·         A Year in Review, Rufus Pollock,

·         Local Government Data, Chris Taggart,

·         Bibliographic Data and the Public Domain, Matthias Schindler, Wikimedia DE

·         Open Science, Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge

·         Linked Open Data, Sören Auer, Universität Leipzig

·         Open Licensing for Data, Jordan Hatcher, Open Data Commons

·         The Post-Analogue World, Glyn Moody, opendotdot

·         Open Philanthropy – in search of change agents (short talk/announcement), Helen Turvey, Shuttleworth Foundation


Since I don’t use PowerPoint on principle, mainly because it’s not (yet) semantic but also because Tufte kills kittens , I try to blog about what I hope to say. However the OKF will be recording this so I hope there will be a permanent record. Because I try to complement what other speakers say I don’t know in detail what precise topics I need to concentrate on.

At present I want to concentrate on making science truly Open. I’ll pay tribute all too briefly to pioneers of Open Experiments (Cameron Neylon, Jean-Claude Bradley) but I’ll primarily emphasize what we can do to make science Open after or at the point for formal publication. So points I may cover:

·         Science is not Open. Some of it is publicly visible (free beer) but that’s not good enough for Linked Open Data. Here’s a topical example

Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Published for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

© Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So we need written permission if we want the data needed to save the planet. The problem is that this mindset is endemic. Ask any Research Librarian whether you can reproduce some data and the universal answer is NO. You need permission. As Cambridge sinks under the rising North Sea from the melting glaciers and millions of books are destroyed we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that no Copyright was violated.

·         Why we need Linked Open Data. Tim Berners-Lee has 4 rules of Linked Data ( They’re great. But they don’t trequire the Data to be Open. Not even accessible. So we need a fifth rule of Linked Open Data. The data must be Open, with an OKDefinition-compliant licence ( Explicit.

·         Panton Principles. Almost all scientists are ignorant of the issues. This is not their fault. Most of them want their data to be open, and they think it is. But they actually need to state that explicitly. So we came up with a simple set of principles and actions to make this possible and launched them at the Panton Arms (Cambridge) in Panton Street (a major activity of OKF activity). ( The principles are simple:

When publishing data make an explicit and robust statement of your wishes.

Use a recognized waiver or license that is appropriate for data.

If you want your data to be effectively used and added to by others it should be open as defined by the Open Knowledge/Data Definition – in particular non-commercial and other restrictive clauses should not be used.

Explicit dedication of data underlying published science into the public domain via PDDL or CCZero is strongly recommended and ensures compliance with both the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data and the Open Knowledge/Data Definition.

·         IsItOpen. If a scientist finds some data can they re-use it? If it isn’t licensed with an OKD-compliant licence they simply don’t know. If they ask an expert (lawyer, librarian) they will be told NO. Ritually. Because the sacred law of Copyright is supreme. It’s actually a law and if you break it you might go to jail. So people tend to be cautious. However many data providers want their data to be Open. IsItOpen ( ) is a service created by OKF volunteers (and inspired by sites such as WhatDoTheyKnow) which allows anyone to ask a data provider whether their data is open. It will also serve as a way of making the providers aware of the OKF and OKD. Hopefully this will spread virally. Please use it. We’d suggest starting with those who are likely to say YES.

·         Librefication through Software. If we develop the right software we can virally spread the power of Openness. For example if every authoring tool highlighted the option to librefy data then many people would. If every repository promoted the Panton Principles rather than the god of restrictive copyright there would be openness.

There’s a lot more that I can and will say but after months of inaction I haven’t found fluency yet. I have a secret weapon which I’ll reveal in future posts.



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One Response to Open Knowledge Foundation OKCon 2010 – what I might say

  1. Thanks for this post, found via GeoEnable. I’m not a scientist tho I’ve been in touch with research institutions all my life, as a geologist now working the web. Check my recent blog psoting on what OpenData has allowed me to do after-hours on Cambs. history data. We just went through an audit of our workplace website and had Creative Commons posted as made sense, same as in my GIScloud maps linked in my blog. Thanks for your indefatigable efforts, to quote a friend also in data mgmt., “… an interesting day in the mine… why do I feel like I am the only one with the flashlight, and everyone else is in the dark when it comes to processes, procedure and planning?” Cheers, Andrew

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