The idea of sharing research data – both scientific and social science – has been around for quite some time (for replication studies and new science), but the Open Data Initiative (can be defined in a few different ways, but I like this one best) of recent years making data collected by local, state and international governments free for all has been a true breakthrough. Some of the most well-publicized milestones were the opening of the World Bank’s Data Catalog, which includes the well-known and used World Development Indicators (once only available by subscription) and Data.gov, which is a result of President Obama’s larger Open Government Initiative to provide a more transparent and collaborative government to build public trust.
Much of the data collected by the federal government was already available and accessible to the public, but not necessarily in a readily useable or guided application format (e.g. American FactFinder). Data.gov also allows something that traditional government agency sites do not allow – the opportunity to create a dataset “view,” suggest data to be added to the collection, and forums for discussion. I consider Data.gov to be an upgrade of the old Fedstats.gov website (seriously look at the difference between the two!).
The Open Data Initiative has also spread to various states and cities across the country as well. Baltimore City has its own that is based on the same platform as Data.gov. Across the world more and more government statistical agencies are following suit – such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Kenya and even Saudi Arabia. See the Open Data Sites section of Data.gov for more information.
Expanding beyond government collected data are initiatives to open access to government funded data. Specifically, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is requiring all those who apply for NSF research grants to have a formal data management plan as part of their applications. Here at Hopkins, the Entrepreneurial Library Program and the Data Conservancy have launched a joint Data Management Planning Service to support Hopkins researchers seeking NSF funding.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the ICPSR Official Representative’s meeting at the University of Michigan. During this meeting I attended a fascinating symposium on the “Next 50 Years of Social Science Data.” The primary speaker for this symposium was Myron Gutmann, former ICPSR Director and current director of NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE). The main points of his presentation and the comments from the symposium panel reflect that we will likely see more federal funding agencies requiring proper data stewardship and archiving for future science. In addition, with more open data, there is belief that disciplinary lines will begin to blur, and more inter- and multidisciplinary work that takes research in new directions will arise.
For Open Access Week 2011 (October 24-30) the Scholarly Communications Group is sponsoring a quiz about Open Access. A Quiz with PRIZES! Read our other blog posts, answer the questions correctly, and you will be eligible for prizes. Prizes are 3 $20 Barnes and Noble gift cards and a $60 gift card to The Dizz. The quiz will be available until Oct. 31.