Open Data in Science

Peter Murray-Rust: Open Data in Science


Open Data (OD) is an emerging term in the process of defining how scientific data may be published and re-used without price or permission barriers. Scientists generally see published data as belonging to the scientific community, but many publishers claim copyright over data and will not allow its re-use without permission. This is a major impediment to the progress of scholarship in the digital age. This article reviews the need for Open Data, shows examples of why Open Data are valuable, and summarizes some early initiatives in formalizing the right of access to and re-use of scientific data.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Open Data in science is now recognized as a critically important area which needs much careful and coordinated work if it is to develop successfully. Much of this requires advocacy; it is likely that when scientists are made aware of the value of labeling their work, the movement will grow rapidly. Besides the licenses and buttons, there are other tools that can make it easier to create Open Data (for example, modifying software so that it can mark the work and also to add hash codes to protect the digital integrity).

Creative Commons is well known outside Open Access and has a large following. Outside of software, it is seen by many as the default way of protecting their work while making it available in the way they wish. CC has the resources, the community respect, and the commitment to continue to develop appropriate tools and strategies.

But there is much more that needs to be done. Full Open Access is the simplest solution, but if we have to coexist with closed full text, the problem of embedded data must be addressed by recognizing the right to extract and index data. And, in any case, conventional publication discourages the full publication of the scientific record. The adoption of Open Notebook Science in parallel with the formal publications of the work can do much to liberate the data. Although data quality and formats are not strictly part of Open Data, its adoption will have marked improvements. The general realization of the value of re-use will create strong pressure for more and better data. If publishers do not gladly accept this challenge, then scientists will rapidly find other ways of publishing data, probably through institutional, departmental, national, or international subject repositories. In any case, the community will rapidly move to Open Data and publishers resisting this will be seen as a problem to be circumvented.

The issue is temporarily available for free (“Once again, Elsevier has agreed to make this focus issue available in its published version for the next nine to twelve months as the sample issue of Serials Review to support the intent of the authors and the concept of Open Access”)

Open Data are also important for the Humanities and Social Sciences. For the Humanities there is also a need to have the source materials as open content according the ECHO charter:

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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