Open minds: open data

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 | Richard White | No Comments

Data is perhaps the trickiest type of ‘open.’ It is often seen as the precious jewel that must kept locked away as the source of all power — and that’s before you even start thinking about privacy or intellectual property issues. Where, for example, is the line between pure facts (which you can’t own) and datasets that are the product of a particular researcher’s brain? And who owns data that is the product of such a brain if that person’s salary comes out of the public purse?

Nevertheless, the voices of those calling for the opening up our data are getting louder. Governments are doing it, as the NZ Government has done with the NZ Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (NZ GOAL) and the Declaration on Open & Transparent Government to actively release data of value to the public. BioMed Central is one publisher consulting the scientific community about how they might “put the open in open data and open bibliography” by proposing to establish CC0 (i.e. public domain) as their default for data published alongside academic papers.  And a provocative piece by Peter C Gøtzsche (Why we need easy access to all data from all clinical trials and how to accomplish it) appeared recently in Trials, suggesting that it is not only advantageous to publish your data “it is a moral imperative to render all results from all trials involving humans…publicly available” in the interests of patients, the progress of science and heath systems around the world. He even proposes legislative changes that could facilitate such a quantum shift.

We’ll be discussing these things and more in the third of our Open Minds seminar series, to be held in the Arana College Main Common Room, 9.30 – 1.00pm on October 25. Check out the full programme for details of our keynotes and panel members. This is a University of Otago staff only session for us to consider what strategies we might pursue in this area but we plan to release some video footage later under CC BY-SA. Otago staff should email to register your interest by 12 October.