Dr Paul Ayris, President of LIBER, reflects on the merits, challenges and problems with making data open, as discussed in two recent meetings in London and Brussels.
“Maximising the use of public data – should research and publicly acquired data be made more accessible?”
This was the title of a dinner debate which I attended on 10 July 2013 at the Royal Society in London. Organised by the Foundation for Science and Technology, it was a meeting designed to discuss the merits, challenges and problems with making data open. There were two highlights amongst the keynote papers – Professor Geoffrey Boulton (who spoke recently at the LIBER Annual Conference in Munich) and the Right Honourable David Willetts MP, Minister of State in the UK for Universities and Science.
The overwhelming conclusion from the meeting was that the default position for data should be open. Nevertheless, there are constraints in making data open – privacy issues, security issues, prior funding agreements with commercial sponsors.
It was interesting for me to compare the papers and discussion at this meeting in London with the tenor of the official EU Data Hearing on 2 July in Brussels, which I attended as a representative of LERU (League of European Research Universities). Here, industry speakers were much less supportive of the concept of Open Data. They saw it as a threat to national security and as a movement which would damage the ability of industry to co-fund research and development with European universities.
Despite the challenges, I left the meetings in both Brussels and London feeling that the era of Open Data was arriving fast. There is a great role for libraries to play in Open Data. This formed one of the themes of the papers and presentations at the recent LIBER Conference in Munich.
For a reflexion on Professor Boulton’s keynote paper on research data in Munich, read our conference report Examining The Future Role of Libraries at LIBER 2013 or watch this video.
Research data management is already playing an important part in the implementation of LIBER’s new strategy and it is good to know that LIBER can support its members in this way.