Category Archives: Open Data

European drive towards data openness

Hot on the heels of the UK White Paper mentioned in the previous post, the EU Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has announced plans for a revision of an EU directive on the use of public data to open data up for re-use and exploitation.

The irreverent blog “The Register” summarises the plans including:

  • Making it a general rule that all documents made accessible by public sector bodies can be reused for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, unless protected by third-party copyright.
  • Making it compulsory to provide data in commonly-used, machine-readable formats, to ensure data can be effectively re-used.

Now, while it is arguable as to whether research data fits the criteria for public data, this and the UK’s White Paper is indicative of a growing push towards data openness from governments. This may possibly stem from thirst for new economic exploitation of open information for much needed growth, rather than the high-minded principles of earlier Open Access directives, but the path is the same.

PS – Neelie Kroes has an interesting video online on the drive towards openness, of which this is part. Given her role, in some ways this can be seen as demonstrating the Commission’s position. This was delivered at the libraries LIBER 40th annual conference, Barcelona earlier this year.


Government White Paper

You might have heard that a White Paper has been released which shows the government’s commitment to Open Access as an economic lever for growth.

“Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth”

This contains a clear push for research *publications* policy compliance which will have consequences for us in the University in the service we give to researchers and the advice we provide. I suspect that the suggested emphasis on compliance with research *publications* will be quickly extended to robust calls for compliance with funder’s policies on *data* availability and clear management. As such this will relate to the ADMIRe work in that any internal service will engage with academics and their outputs, but this is obviously a separate process/service as well.

For some time the funding councils have had open access policies requiring that recipients of funding make their research outputs openly accessible – particularly through repositories. However, this has been unemphasised by funders and so difficult to promote as an additional activity for researchers inside institutions.  Compliance with this requirement is low, nationally, and I think it is fair to say that it has not been seen as a priority within institutions. The Wellcome Trust has a similar guideline and has now achieved over 50% compliance, albeit at the cost of writing to VCs directly to ask why their researchers are not complying.

This White Paper takes a robust line about compliance and sees this as the first step in a larger “access to research” project/service as a national picture of UK research, and so this is not just compliance for the sake of it, but as part of a larger developmental picture.

For example, from the White Paper:

Para 6.9: “The Research Councils expect the researchers they fund to deposit published articles or conference proceedings in an open access repository at or around the time of publication. But this practice is unevenly enforced. Therefore, as an immediate step, we have asked the Research Councils to ensure the researchers they fund fulfil the current requirements. Additionally, the Research Councils have now agreed to invest £2 million in the development, by 2013, of a UK ‘Gateway to Research’. In the first instance this will allow ready access to Research Council funded research information and related data but it will be designed so that it can also include research funded by others in due course.”

Other related mentions include:

Para 6.6: “The Government, in line with our overarching commitment to transparency and open data, is committed to ensuring that publicly-funded research should be accessible free of charge.”

Whatever the status of the advice within the White Paper, robust change regarding funder policy compliance does seem to be coming and it is far from general amongst all institutions (as far as I know) to track to see if grant requirements for open access are being met.

I think it would be beneficial if within this programme strand we are aware of compliance monitoring that will be required for publications, so as to better offer academics a joined-up service from their central services.