Open data for open science

The Royal Society issued a major report on 21 June 2012 – one that may have been overlooked in the blizzard of comments on the Finch report published three days earlier. “Science as an open enterprise: open data for open science” is well worth reading – quite inspiring but also practical in its ten recommendations. I paraphrase them here:

  1. Scientists should make their data free and open access, including in an appropriate data repository
  2. Universities should develop data strategies and their capacity to curate their own knowledge resources and support the data needs of researchers, having open data as a default position
  3. Assessment should reward the development of open data on the same scale as journal articles and other publications
  4. Professional bodies should promote the priorities of open science, explore how enhanced data management could benefit their members and how habits might need to change to achieve this
  5. Funders should recognise the costs of preparing data and metadata for curation as part of the costs of the research process
  6. Journals should enfore requirement that data on which the argument of an article depends should be accessible, assessable, usable and traceable through information in the article, and the article should state conditions of access to the data
  7. Industry sectors and relevant regulators should work together on sharing data that is in the public interest, including negative or null results
  8. Governments should develop policies to open up scientific data that complement policies for open government data
  9. Datasets should be managed according to a system of proportionate governance – this means that personal data is only shared if it is necessary for research with the potential for high public value
  10. Follow good practice and common protocols for security and safety, but remember that security can come from greater openness as well as from secrecy

This report is welcome reading in the light of institutional efforts to build a good data management infrastructure. It casts the primary responsibility within the culture of scientists (since it is a Royal Society report), and says that they need support and encouragement from institutions, funders, publishers and their peers. It talks about intelligently open data, which has four attributes

  • accessible
  • intelligible
  • assessable
  • usable

and it presumes data are open by default. I shall certainly be making use of the Royal Society report in my data management advocacy at UEL.

One thing, though that I probably won’t take from the report – especially when I talk to arts researchers – is the following definition of data on p. 14

Data are numbers, characters or images that designate an attribute of a phenomenon

Finch et al (2012), Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications

Royal Society (2012), Science as an open enterprise: open data for open science

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