Open Data Culture: Sustaining organisational support for open data programs
The international research community makes use of a tremendous amount of open data funded and published by government sources. Open government data serves to inform many important areas of research and public policy impacting agriculture, adaptation to climate change, energy, natural resource management, and responses to natural disasters. A myriad of new opportunities using public data has the potential to improve societies and economies, while the risks of not modernizing data policies, frameworks and protections for individuals and communities, may be catastrophic. There is a gap, however, between the perceived value and urgency of data-driven research and evidence-based policy, and the data culture required to realize those objectives. Research communities may miss opportunities to inform data policies and legislation that subsequently have negative consequences for their community. Research can be hampered at the policy level without a feedback mechanism from the research community itself. The present study sets out two original case studies in Australia and New Zealand to analyze the role of emerging data communities and leadership to create sustainable data-sharing programs. Public service executives in data-intensive organisations are actively looking for bodies that will lead the way on data sharing and release and also address the gap in the capacity of agencies to manage, collect and turn digital content into findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) data. Guided by the literatures on emerging data communities and social psychology, I identify how federal advisors and policymakers are increasingly informed by research organisations, including the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), Australian National University (ANU), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and GeoScience Australia, to improve the way federally funded data is shared on the public Web.
Data sharing requires a “global village.” Ever since the invention of the Web over 30 years ago by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who initially created a mechanism for particle physicists at CERN to communicate, millions of researchers share information via the public Web today. The concept of sharing and re-using high-quality data has permeated the ethos of considerable academic and applied research worldwide. However, with the fragmentation of digital platforms, and proliferation of sensor-based digital content, often collected with minimal regulatory oversight, the data sharing landscape has become murky and complex, posing potential existential risks to basic and applied research.
Researchers could benefit by becoming aware of systemic vulnerabilities of open data currently supplied by governments, such as satellite-based location data from the United States (via the Global Positioning System operated by the U.S. Air Force), and weather data from Japan (via Himawari 8 operated by the Japanese Meteorological Agency). These, along with other key open data, are foundational building blocks to modern research yet are provided through the largesse of governments as a form of soft power.
The motivation for research communities to have a voice in data policy, including data regulation, is arguably more critical than ever. Advancing in the ethos of information sharing in 2020 and beyond requires that we look for and embrace opportunities to have input on emerging data policies and national data legislation. Researchers with experience in data sharing, standards, and best practices, and public policy and governance, may wish to participate in roundtable discussions, meetings, and government submissions. First, however, they need to know that input from research and open data communities is being sought. For example, in Australia, the Office of the National Data Commissioner (co-located in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet), and the Productivity Commission have adopted a consultative approach to the formation of emerging data sharing legislation in 2020. In New Zealand, after considerable community collaboration, the recently published public data principles (December 2019), reflect community priorities to ensure data practices are focused on the wellbeing of people and communities. As an international research community, we arguably have a role to play in ensuring that public policies reflect a robust data culture for a sustainable open data ecosystem that benefits all members of our communities and ultimately, society.
Author: Rob Hooft
Date: 09 Apr, 2020
ELIXIR, the life science data infrastructure in Europe that I am associated with, participates in the "Global Biodata Coalition". I think you are pursuing largely parallel goals. I will make some colleagues aware of your poster.