Importance of Open Data to Developing Countries

UNA recent post in Civil Service World, a UK publication, analyzes the importance of open data to  the development of the forthcoming United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

It’s already becoming clear that open data holds particular resonance for international development. By 2013, 12 of the 41 available national platforms for accessing open data had been created by developing countries. And with the African Development Bank becoming the first pan-African entity to provide regional information through a central platform, it is increasingly likely that open data will form a central part of the plans for the SDG framework.

The timing is certainly significant. Driven by a push for greater aid effectiveness and accountability from development programmes, there has been an increasing need to measure results using reliable, transparent data as evidence. But its potential is not just limited to tracking aid effectiveness.

Open data can also be used to inform evidence-based policy-making and the design of government services by providing a source of information to identify wasteful spending, better target resources and design more responsive services. By opening up data sets typically on a central portal, government departments can share information easily and prevent silos from emerging. Evidence suggests that where governments have introduced open data portals, a large proportion of the views or downloads are from civil servants in other departments.

Gates Foundation adopts OA Policy


_bill_melinda_gates_foundation_logo From Science Insider:

Breaking new ground for the open-access movement, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of global health research, plans to require that the researchers it funds publish only in immediate open-access journals. 

The policy doesn’t kick in until January 2017; until then, grantees can publish in subscription-based journals as long as their paper is freely available within 12 months. But after that, the journal must be open access, meaning papers are free for anyone to read immediately upon publication. Articles must also be published with a license that allows anyone to freely reuse and distribute the material. And the underlying data must be freely available.

The Gates Foundation will also pay the author fees charged by many open-access journals.

IMF: Data is a public good


From Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

We very much recognize the importance of data as a public good. In this context, we are upgrading our data platforms and improving the way we distribute data and statistics to our membership throughout the world. …

Much of our data is already freely available. This is especially true of the data that supports our main forecasts for the global economy in the World Economic Outlook. 

And I have an important announcement to make—starting January 1, 2015 we will provide all our online data free-of-charge to everyone.

Data Sharing Data

dataglobe An interesting post in the Scholarly Kitchen blog reports on one data sharing survey and links to another. There is a lot of material to digest here and recommendations regarding how to increase data access.

While public access to research articles is a fact of life for much of the scholarly community, access to research data – while a top priority for many governments and other funders, who see it as the key to future economic growth – remains a challenge. There are many reasons for this, both practical (eg, lack of infrastructure) and professional (eg, lack of credit, getting scooped). The publishing community can and does already help with the former, for example through support for NISO, CrossRef, CODATA, and other organizations and, increasingly, the development of data sharing and management solutions. Resolving the professional issues, however, will almost certainly require action by research funders and institutions.

Three Experts on Open Access, Open Educational Resources and Open Data

In this month’s College & Research Libraries News Peter Binfield, Nicole Allen and Carly Strasser provide a snapshot of recent developments in different aspects of scholarly communication. Binfield discusses Open access, Allen Open Educational Resources (OER), and Strasser Open Data and Data Management.

Allen’s prediction regarding the development of OER over the next 12 months is particularly interesting as well as promising:

Over the next 12 months there will be a flood of OER coming out into the marketplace. The largest wave will come from the first round of the Department of Labor’s $2 billion workforce training grant program, which requires all participating grantees to release educational materials under a Creative Commons Attribution license. We are also going to see a number of high-impact open textbooks from publishing projects at Rice University, Oregon State University, and SUNY. I think this influx of content will drive conversations about how to better organize and share content. My hope is that it will also help people see the potential of OER beyond just cutting costs, as a new infrastructure that can support innovative teaching and learning practices that are only possible in an open environment.

For the complete article.

Half of taxpayer funded research to be open

capitolbldgFrom The Washington Post, by Andrea Peterson:

Proponents of the open access model for academic research notched a huge victory Thursday night when Congress passed a budget that will make about half of taxpayer-funded research available to the public.

Deep inside the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2014 is a provision that requires federal agencies under the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education portion of the bill with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research that they fund within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

‘Misguided’ Nations Lock Up Valuable Geospatial Data

On Tuesday Jan Piotrowski published a interesting article “‘Misguided’ Nations Lock Up Valuable Geospatial Data” in SciDevNet. In it he criticizes those developing nations that fail to provide open access to their wealth of geospatial data. He argues that this practice is misguided and counter-productive as open-data policies could offer a greater economic boost than closed ones: “The potential of such data that incudes geographic positioning information, including satellite imagery, to aid fields such as disaster response, agriculture, conservation and city planning far outweighs any potential value from selling the information.” Piotrowski quotes Paul Uhlir, US National Academy of Sciences: “Open data policies are much more economically generative than closed ones.”

Open science: resources for sharing and publishing citizen science research

libguidepicreverseAn interesting PLoS post by Dr. Carolyn Graybeal, who holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University, about resources that help citizen scientists make their work (both data and articles) open and accessible:

Science endeavors to be a collaborative and open process. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for independent citizen scientists to share their data or publish their research findings. “Despite the quality of their work, competent amateurs and citizen scientists are not well-represented in the research literature.”

Thankfully, the barriers are coming down. Online data repositories are available to both professional and non-professional scientists. Increasingly, publishers are making their primary research articles ‘open access’ (free) and are actively encouraging citizen scientists to submit articles for publication. Below is a sample of resources that can help citizen scientists share data and publish their findings.


For Your OA Week Listening Pleasure

60x60Information Now: Open Access and the Public Good  a podcast available from the Georgia Tech Library:

Every year, the international academic and research community dedicates a week in October to discuss, debate, and learn more about Open Access. Open Access in the academic sense refers to the free, immediate, and online access to the results of scholarly research, primarily academic, peer-reviewed journal articles. In the United States, the movement in support of Open Access has, in the last decade, been growing dramatically. Because of this growing interest in Open Access, a group of academic librarians from the Georgia Tech library, ….try and unravel some of the different concerns and benefits of Open Access. ….[They] examine more broadly what it means to be “open”, what is open information, and what relationship open information has to the public good.

Dan Cohen from the DPLA speaks about efforts to expand public access to archival and library collections.

Christine George about why things sometimes need to be closed, if we want them to be open in the future, with particular reference to archivist’s privilege in oral history.

Kari Watkins speaks about a specific example of when a government agency decided, against legitimate concerns, to make transit data open, and why it worked for them.

Peter Suber from Harvard University gives the background on the Open Access movement, some myths that have been dispelled, and why it is important for academic researchers to take the leap to make their research openly accessible.

And finally, hear from Michael Chang, a researcher who did take that leap and helped start an Open Access journal, and why he sees openness in research as his obligation.

Project Open Data

white houseThe White House released the new Project Open Data site today. The Background section explains well the reasons to make data open and the commitment expected of government agencies.

Data is a valuable national resource and a strategic asset to the U.S. Government, its partners, and the public. Managing this data as an asset and making it available, discoverable, and usable – in a word, open – not only strengthens our democracy and promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government, but also has the potential to create economic opportunity and improve citizens’ quality of life.

For example, when the U.S. Government released weather and GPS data to the public, it fueled an industry that today is valued at tens of billions of dollars per year. Now, weather and mapping tools are ubiquitous and help everyday Americans navigate their lives.

The ultimate value of data can often not be predicted. That’s why the U.S. Government released a policy that instructs agencies to manage their data, and information more generally, as an asset from the start and, wherever possible, release it to the public in a way that makes it open, discoverable, and usable.

The White House developed Project Open Data – this collection of code, tools, and case studies – to help agencies adopt the Open Data Policy and unlock the potential of government data. Project Open Data will evolve over time as a community resource to facilitate broader adoption of open data practices in government. Anyone – government employees, contractors, developers, the general public – can view and contribute.

See also the blog post Progress Toward Opening Government Data Resources from the OSTP.