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Freedom of Information in Argentina – new law aimed at supporting citizens and civil society in the political process

- November 11, 2016 in Access to Information, community

ok_lg_logo_argentina_rgb On September 29, 2016, Law No. 27,275 was published in the Official Bulletin of Argentina to regulate the right of access to public information. Thus, Argentina is no longer in the list of countries without this right protected.This law is supported across the political spectrum and is the result of significant work across civil society. In addition, this law is in line with the requirements of the model proposed by the OAS.   This law represents significant progress for the effective exercise of the right to public information. It recognizes the universal nature of the right of all citizens to request information without having to express the reasons for their request. The institutions with the obligation to give a response are the three branches of the Argentine State, the Council of the Judiciary, the Public Ministry of Defense of Public Prosecutions and, with some exceptions, also private entities who manage public funds. Alongside the obligation to provide information when requested, the law requires the creation of the Agency for Access to Public Information as the guarantor agency to ensure compliance with the right of access to public information. The law also mandates the obligation of the state to implement policies of active transparency, which means that departments and government bodies should proactively publish information. Another key aspect is that the state should provide access to such information in digital and open formats. Our involvement Fundación Conocimiento Abierto (FCA) is the Open Knowledge local group in Argentina and its mission is to contribute to developing innovation,  improving the ways in which citizens can participate in civic life, and achieving transparency through technology, open government, access to information and openness of public data. FCA with other NGOs created a platform to report on the process of voting on the Freedom of Information Act in both houses of the National Congress during 2016. In this project, we created the accesoalainfo.org campaign website which is an online platform that aims to give information to citizens about the right to access public information, the national and international context about this right, and the ongoing process in Congress. This project adds value in society by strengthening democracy and providing mechanisms for greater transparency. The Process: how an idea became a law On May 18, 2016, the Access to Information law proposed by the Executive Branch obtained, with several significant modifications, preliminary approval in the Chamber of Deputies. This approval came with a large majority — 229 votes in favor, 4 against and one abstention Some of the changes incorporated were: public information should be delivered in open and digital formats; the opinion of the Bicameral Commission happens to have a binding character in the moment for regarding the removal of the director of the Agency, and some further exceptions were added. Some of these changes were requested in a joint document presented by several NGOs, including FCA and was published trough the accesoalainfo.org website. The Senate approved the proposal but with a few more amendments of their own. In accordance with the Argentinean parliamentary process, this then had to go back to the Chamber of Deputies for final approval. Finally, the Law on Access to Information was passed. The Chamber of Deputies approved with 182 in favor and 16 against the project without the intervening changes in the Senate. This is the third time the National Congress has debated a bill on access to public information. The law was passed after 15 years of debate. In 2001, a project drawn up by the Anti-Corruption Office with support from a number of Civil Society Organizations received preliminary approval by the Chamber of Deputies. But  after the Senate introduced changes, the deputies never gave treatment to the modified project. In 2010, the reverse situation occurred: the Senate gave preliminary approval to the project, but the Chamber of Deputies never advanced in their treatment. In other words, it has been a long time coming! What changes will this law produce in the day to day lives of Argentinean citizens? Access to public information is an essential aspect of democracy and democratic governance. Access to information is a key tool for promoting improvements in government action, especially for concerns related to the administration of public resources. Access to information is also essential for the processes of accountability and transparency of public management. Recognition and regulation of the right to access information enhance the capabilities of citizenship. Since transparency increases the ability of people to participate in an informed manner, they can more easily identify and demand economic and social policies sensitive to their priorities and needs. That is, Law No. 27,275 is a key tool for citizen participation and for the promotion of an informed electorate. The right of access to information boosts the involvement of people and organizations in the political process. It generates empowerment and cooperation between the people and the government. This law is part of a wider transformative process which promotes a more solid democratic system. Added to this, access to information is a key tool for preventing and combating corruption. It facilitates the exercise of public control over most government actions. Therefore, this Act contributes in generating more confidence in government institutions creating permanent communication channels between citizens and their accountable government leaders. On the other hand, access to information is key to the protection of other rights, such as economic, social and cultural rights. The Argentine law No. 27,275 will allow citizens of Argentina to know information related to the development of public policy and state decisions that affect the development and enjoyment of these rights. Thus, the law develops the capacity of citizens to make informed decisions and concrete actions to drive improvements in basic public services such as health, education, public safety. Who are the “obligors” to provide public information? The law mandates apply to several entities, including: the national public administration; the Legislature; the Judiciary of the Nation; the Public Prosecutor’s Office; the Public Ministry of Defense; the Judicial Council; companies and state companies that cover state enterprises, state companies, corporations with majority state-owned, mixed economy societies; businesses and companies in which the national government has a minority stake, but only with regard to the State participation; Dealers, licensees and licensees of public services; business organizations, political parties, trade unions, universities; institutions or funds whose administration, custody or preservation is in charge of the national state; the Central Bank of Argentina, among others. But are there any exceptions? Yes, the law provides a number of exceptions: for example, information classified as proprietary or confidential or secret for reasons of defense or foreign policy information; information that could jeopardize the functioning of the financial system; trade secrets, commercial, financial, scientific disclosure could harm the level of competitiveness; information containing personal data regulated by law 25,326; information protected by professional secrecy; corresponding to a corporation subject to public offering regime, among other information. Should you pay for access to information? Is the citizen expected to pay for copying cost? Under the law, the public information access is free if a hard copy is not required. The reproduction costs are payable by the applicant. What is the expected time to receive an answer? The institutions required by law have up to 15 working days to respond to requests for information. They can request an extension, only one-time, 15 days but they must justify in writing to the applicant the reason for the extension. What is the challenge from now on? The main challenge is the effective implementation of the law. For this is it very important that the government design the key mechanisms to implementation and public policies that ensure the answers to requests for information and achieve compliance with the principle of maximum disclosure of public information. This is accompanied by a process of sensitization and training of civil servants and citizens for full enjoyment of this right and a process towards the consolidation of an open government. We are going to continue using the accesoalainfo.org platform for this goal.

Apply to attend OpenCon2015

- June 3, 2015 in #opencon, Access to Information, Open Access, opencon15, opencon2015

Applications to attend OpenCon 2015 are now open. opencon OpenCon 2015 is the student and early career academic professional conference on Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data and will be held on November 14-16, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium. It is organized by the Right to Research Coalition, SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), and an Organizing Committee of students and early career researchers from around the world. Jonathan Gray from Open Knowledge is on the organising committee and we are very excited to be supporting this event! Open Knowledge’s mission is to open up all essential public interest information and see it used to create insight that drives change. Open Access, Open Access to Research data and Open Education are an important part of this mission. Applications to attend OpenCon are open until June 22nd, but applicants are encouraged to apply early. OpenCon seeks to bring together the most capable, motivated students and early career academic professionals from around the world to advance Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data—regardless of their ability to cover travel costs. In 2014, more than 80% of attendees received support. Due to this, attendance at OpenCon is by application only. Applicants can request a full or partial travel scholarship, which will be awarded to most of those accepted. OpenCon 2015 will convene students and early career academic professionals from around the world and serve as a powerful catalyst for projects led by the next generation to advance OpenCon’s three focus areas—Open Access, Open Education, and Open Research Data. Through a program of keynotes, panel discussions, workshops, and hackathons, participants will build skills in key areas—from raising institutional awareness to coordinating national-level campaigns effectively. Apply early at www.opencon2015.org/attend.

OpenCon 2015 is launched

- April 10, 2015 in #opencon, Access to Information, Events, Open Access, Open Con 2015, open-education

This blog post is cross-posted from the Open Access Working Group blog. Details of OpenCon 2015 have just been announced! OpenCon2015: Empowering the Next Generation to Advance Open Access, Open Education and Open Data will take place in on November 14-16 in Brussels, Belgium and bring together students and early career academic professionals from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data. OpenCon2015 Hosted by the Right to Research Coalition and SPARC, OpenCon 2015 builds on the success of the first-ever OpenCon meeting last year which convened 115 students and early career academic professionals from 39 countries in Washington, DC. More than 80% of these participants received full travel scholarships, provided by sponsorships from leading organizations, including the Max Planck Society, eLife, PLOS, and more than 20 universities. “OpenCon 2015 will expand on a proven formula of bringing together the brightest young leaders across the Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data movements and connecting them with established leaders in each community,” said Nick Shockey, founding Director of the Right to Research Coalition. “OpenCon is equal parts conference and community. The meeting in Brussels will serve as the centerpiece of a much larger network to foster initiatives and collaboration among the next generation across OpenCon’s three issue areas.“ OpenCon 2015’s three day program will begin with two days of conference-style keynotes, panels, and interactive workshops, drawing both on the expertise of leaders in the Open Access, Open Education and Open Data movements and the experience of participants who have already led successful projects. The third day will take advantage of the location in Brussels by providing a half-day of advocacy training followed by the opportunity for in-person meetings with relevant policy makers, ranging from the European Parliament, European Commission, embassies, and key NGOs. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the conference’s three issue areas, stronger skills in organizing local and national projects, and connections with policymakers and prominent leaders across the three issue areas. Speakers at OpenCon 2014 included the Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States for Legislative Affairs, the Chief Commons Officer of Sage Bionetworks, the Associate Director for Data Science for the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and more than 15 students and early career academic professionals leading successful initiatives. OpenCon 2015 will again feature leading experts. Patrick Brown and Michael Eisen, two of the co-founders of PLOS, are confirmed for a joint keynote at the 2015 meeting. “For the ‘open’ movements to succeed, we must invest in capacity building for the next generation of librarians, researchers, scholars, and educators,said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). “OpenCon is dedicated to creating and empowering a global network of young leaders across these issues, and we are eager to partner with others in the community to support and catalyze these efforts.” OpenCon seeks to convene the most effective student and early career academic professional advocates—regardless of their ability to pay for travel costs. The majority of participants will receive full travel scholarships. Because of this, attendance is by application only, though limited sponsorship opportunities are available to guarantee a fully funded place at the conference. Applications will open on June 1, 2015. In 2014, more than 1,700 individuals from 125 countries applied to attend the inaugural OpenCon. This year, an expanded emphasis will be placed on building the community around OpenCon and on satellite events. OpenCon satellite events are independently hosted meetings that mix content from the main conference with live presenters to localize the discussion and bring the energy of an in-person OpenCon event to a larger audience. In 2014, OpenCon satellite events reached hundreds of students and early career academic professionals in nine countries across five continents. A call for partners to host satellite events has now opened and is available at opencon2015.org. OpenCon 2015 is organized by the Right to Research Coalition, SPARC, and a committee of student and early career researcher organizations from around the world. Applications for OpenCon 2015 will open on June 1st. For more information about the conference and to sign up for updates, visit opencon2015.org/updates. You can follow OpenCon on Twitter at @Open_Con or using the hashtag #opencon. OpenCon2015

Cease and desist by the German government for publishing a document received under FOI law

- January 24, 2014 in Access to Information, Featured

Fragdenstaat screenshot The German Federal Ministry of the Interior has sent a cease and desist order to the Freedom of Information (FOI) portal FragDenStaat.de for publishing a document received under the German federal FOI law. The document – a five page study written by government staff – analyses a ruling by the German constitutional court in November 2011 which declared the 5% party quota for the European Parliament elections as unconstitutional. The study concludes that setting any such quota would be unconstitutional according to the ruling. Despite this a recent change in election law set the party quota to 3%. When the study in question was received from the Ministry of the Interior through an FOI request on FragDenStaat.de, the ministry prohibited publication of the document by claiming copyright. FragDenStaat.de has decided to publish the document anyway to take a stand against this blatant misuse of copyright. The government sent a cease and desist letter shortly after. The Open Knowledge Foundation Germany as the legal entity behind FragDenStaat.de is refusing to comply with the cease and desist order, and is looking forward to a court decision that will strengthen freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of information rights in Germany. This is the German campaign site with all documents and press release We want to fight this case in court and need financial support. The organisation behind FragDenStaat.de is the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, a German non-profit charitable organisation. Please donate via BetterPlace.org or with the following details: Recipient: Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland e.V IBAN: DE89830944950003009670 BIC: GENO DE F1 ETK If you can’t spare money but time, tell the European Commission to reform copyright and make government documents exempt from copyright.

Open Data Empowers Us to Answer Questions that Matter

- December 9, 2013 in Access to Information, Featured, Open Data, Open Knowledge Foundation

This article by Rufus Pollock, Founder and Director of the Open Knowledge Foundation, is cross-posted from “Telefonica Digital Hub” released on 5 December 2013. Every day we face challenges – from the personal such as the quickest way to get to the work or what we should eat to global ones like climate change and how to sustainably feed and educate seven billion people. Here at the Open Knowledge Foundation we believe that opening up data – and turning that data into insight – can be crucial to addressing these challenges, and building a society in which is everyone – not just the few – are empowered with the knowledge they need to understand and effect change. Neon sign Open 2005  Photographer User Justinc cc-by-sa Open data and open knowledge are fundamentally about empowerment, about giving people – citizens, journalists, NGOs, companies and policy-makers – access to the information they need to understand and shape the world around them. Through openness, we can ensure that technology and data improve science, governance, and society. Without it, we may see the increasing centralisation of knowledge – and therefore power – in the hands of the few, and a huge loss in our potential, individually and collectively, to innovate, understand, and improve the world around us. Open Data is data that can be freely accessed, used, built upon and shared by anyone, for any purpose. With digital technology – from mobiles to the internet – increasingly everywhere, we’re seeing a data revolution. It’s a revolution both in the amount of data available and in our ability to use, and share, that data. And it’s changing everything we do – from how we travel home from work to how scientists do research, to how government set policy. Now much of that data is personal, data about you and what you do – what you buy (your loyalty card, your bank statements), where you go (your mobile location or the apps you’ve installed) or who you interact with online (Facebook, Twitter etc). That data should never be “open”, freely accessible to anyone – its your data, and you should control who has access to it and how it is used. But there’s a lot of data that isn’t personal. Data like the government’s budget, or road maps, or train times, or what’s in that candy bar, or where those jeans were made, or how much carbon dioxide was produced last year … Data like this could and should be open if the governments and corporations who control it can be persuaded to unlock it. And that’s what we’ve been doing at the Open Knowledge Foundation for the last decade: working to get governments and corporations to unlock their data and make it open. We’re doing this because of the power of open data to unleash innovation, creativity and insight. It has potential to empower anyone – whether it is an entrepreneur, an activist or a researcher – to get access to information and use it as they see fit. For example, citizens in Ghana using data on mining to ensure they get their fair share of tax revenues to pay for local schools and hospitals, or a startup like Open Healthcare UK using drug prescription data released by the UK government to identify hundreds of millions of pounds of savings for the health services. It’s key to remember here that real impact doesn’t come directly from open data itself – no one’s life is immediately improved by a new open data initiative or an additional open dataset. Data has to be turned into knowledge, information into insight – and someone has to act on that knowledge. To do that takes tools and skills – tools for processing, analysing and presenting data, and skills to do that. This is why this is another key area of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s work. With projects like SchoolofData we’re working to teach data skills to those who need them most, and in Open Knowledge Foundation Labs we’re creating lightweight tools to help people use data more easily and effectively. Finally, it’s about people, the people who use data, and the people who use the insights from that data to drive change. We need to create a culture of “open data makers“, people able and ready to make apps and insights with open data. We need to connect open data with those who have the best questions and the biggest needs – a healthcare worker in Zambia, the London commuter travelling home – and go beyond the data geeks and the tech savvy. Image “Neon Sign Open” by Justin Cormack, CC-BY

New petition to fix the EU lobby register

- November 8, 2013 in Access to Information, Open Data, Policy

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), a coalition of over 200 civil society groups concerned about the effects of corporate lobbying on the EU (including the Open Knowledge Foundation), have recently launched a petition to fix the EU’s official register of lobbyists. The current register is voluntary, incomplete and unreliable – giving only a small glimpse of the picture about the activities of big lobbyists in Brussels. ALTER-EU produced a detailed report earlier this year looking at some of the things that are wrong with the current register, and how to fix them. This is an excellent opportunity for the EU to demonstrate their commitment to the principle that official information can be used to strengthen the democracy and public accountability of European institutions (which I wrote about on the EU digital agenda blog a couple of weeks ago). If you want to see the EU increasing lobbying transparency and fixing the register, we strongly encourage you to sign and share the petition! If you’re interested in pushing for greater lobbying transparency in your country, you can also join our recently launched global working group on lobbying transparency, that we’re co-hosting with the Sunlight Foundation.

What’s the point of open data?

- September 17, 2013 in Access to Information, Open Data, Open Government Data

I’ve been puzzling for a while how the open data community can help the many great groups that have been fighting for transparency of key money flows for the past decade and more. I think one answer may be that open data helps us go beyond simply making information available. If done well, it can help us make it accessible and relevant to people, which has been the holy grail for transparency advocates for a long time. The transparency community has focused too much on just getting information out there (making information available). But what’s the point of having information available if it’s not accessible? What’s the use of public reports that are only nominally ‘public’ because they languish in filing cabinets or ‘PDF deserts’ hidden within an obscure website? If we can get this information more accessible, we can then work to increase participation and help people use it. This for me is what open data people are talking about when they talk about open formats. Machine readability and open formats matter because they are tools to increase access. I’ve seen too many techies talk about ‘open formats’ and activists’ eyes glaze over. But I think we’re both talking about the same thing we hold dear: improving access to vital data for all. Likewise, it’s the connections between the datasets that are powerful and interesting. You may not care so much to know where most people under 15 years old live in your country, but if you’re told that those that live close to a nuclear waste disposal site happen to have the highest cancer rates, then it becomes seriously relevant. Same as above, techies often talk about technical data standards and get quizzical/skeptical – at best – looks in exchange. But technical data standards are the fuel that allows policy wonks to compare datasets, which creates relevant data. Connecting the dots makes it policy relevant – without data, you can’t make policy. [availability of data] => [accessibility of data] => [comparability of data] [availability of data] => [open formats] => [data standards] Follow the Money groups do amazing work: extractives’ transparency advocates campaigning for vital releases of information on oil, gas, mining revenues into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Groups looking at curbing illicit flows of funds out of desperately poor countries via shell companies and phantom firms. Activists who scrutinize budgets, everything from big ticket national budget allocations, all the way down to very local issues like your local school spending on basic reading materials. And many more. Together, these groups share one big thing in common – they are all seeking to follow the money. In other words, they are all trying to understand how money either gets in to government coffers, or how it fails to get there, and then how and whether it is spent for the good of the many, rather than the few lining their pockets. To succeed, we all need data that’s not only public (e.g. public registries of beneficial ownership) but also accessible (in open formats) and comparable to other money flows. Let’s work together to make it happen. The following guest post from Martin Tisné was first published on his personal blog. If you’re at OKCon 2013 and interested in joining the Open Knowledge Foundation and ONE to follow the money, you can come to our session on this topic at OKCon 2013 in Geneva, on Wednesday 18th September, 10:30-11:30 in Room 8, Floor 2 at the Centre International de Conférences Genève – CICG). Due to limited space, if you’re interested in joining us please email followthemoney@okcon.org.

An Open Letter on the UK’s Proposed Lobbying Bill

- September 9, 2013 in Access to Information, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy

The following is an open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister about the UK’s proposed Lobbying Bill, initiated by the Open Knowledge Foundation and signed by organisations working for greater government transparency and openness in the UK and around the world. A version of the letter was printed in today’s edition of The Independent newspaper. For more about our position on this topic, you can read our recent blog post on the importance of lobbyist registers. For press enquiries please contact press@okfn.org.

The Lobbying Bill will be a missed opportunity for government openness unless crucial changes are made


Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
Houses of Parliament
London
SW1A 0AA
Cc: Andrew Lansley CBE MP (Leader of the House of Commons),
Francis Maude MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office),
Chloe Smith MP (Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform),
Graham Allen MP (Chair of Political and Constitutional Reform Committee).
6th September 2013
Dear Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, strongly urge government to pause and redraft the proposed Lobbying Bill so that it will provide citizens with a genuine opportunity to scrutinise the activities of lobbyists in the UK. The current version of the lobbyist register would only cover a small fraction of active lobbyists, leaving the public in the dark about the rest of the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry. It will also not reveal any meaningful information on their activities. We think a decent lobbyist register – which says who is lobbying whom, what they are lobbying for and how much they are spending – should be an essential part of the UK government’s openness agenda, and a key measure to ensure that lobbying is transparent and effectively regulated. Crucially it should not just be restricted to consultant lobbyists, but should also include in-house lobbyists, big consultancies who offer a range of services, and other entities which offer lobbying services such as think tanks. Furthermore we think it is essential the UK’s lobbyist register is published as machine-readable open data so that its contents can be analysed, connected with other information sources, and republished. The UK has been a pioneer in opening up its public data and has a major opportunity to be a world leader in government openness at the Open Government Partnership Summit in the UK this autumn, following on from its success in putting open data at the top of the agenda at the G8 with the Open Data Charter. However, if the Lobbying Bill goes ahead as it is without further changes, then it will be a significant missed opportunity for government openness in the UK, and a major blow to the government’s aspiration to be – in the words of the Prime Minister – “the most open and transparent government in the world”. Signed,

An Open Letter on the UK’s Proposed Lobbying Bill

- September 9, 2013 in Access to Information, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy

The following is an open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister about the UK’s proposed Lobbying Bill, initiated by the Open Knowledge Foundation and signed by organisations working for greater government transparency and openness in the UK and around the world. A version of the letter was printed in today’s edition of The Independent newspaper. For more about our position on this topic, you can read our recent blog post on the importance of lobbyist registers. For press enquiries please contact press@okfn.org.

The Lobbying Bill will be a missed opportunity for government openness unless crucial changes are made


Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
Houses of Parliament
London
SW1A 0AA
Cc: Andrew Lansley CBE MP (Leader of the House of Commons),
Francis Maude MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office),
Chloe Smith MP (Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform),
Graham Allen MP (Chair of Political and Constitutional Reform Committee).
6th September 2013
Dear Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, strongly urge government to pause and redraft the proposed Lobbying Bill so that it will provide citizens with a genuine opportunity to scrutinise the activities of lobbyists in the UK. The current version of the lobbyist register would only cover a small fraction of active lobbyists, leaving the public in the dark about the rest of the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry. It will also not reveal any meaningful information on their activities. We think a decent lobbyist register – which says who is lobbying whom, what they are lobbying for and how much they are spending – should be an essential part of the UK government’s openness agenda, and a key measure to ensure that lobbying is transparent and effectively regulated. Crucially it should not just be restricted to consultant lobbyists, but should also include in-house lobbyists, big consultancies who offer a range of services, and other entities which offer lobbying services such as think tanks. Furthermore we think it is essential the UK’s lobbyist register is published as machine-readable open data so that its contents can be analysed, connected with other information sources, and republished. The UK has been a pioneer in opening up its public data and has a major opportunity to be a world leader in government openness at the Open Government Partnership Summit in the UK this autumn, following on from its success in putting open data at the top of the agenda at the G8 with the Open Data Charter. However, if the Lobbying Bill goes ahead as it is without further changes, then it will be a significant missed opportunity for government openness in the UK, and a major blow to the government’s aspiration to be – in the words of the Prime Minister – “the most open and transparent government in the world”. Signed,

EC Consultation on open research data

- July 16, 2013 in Access to Information, Open Access, Open Data

The European Commission held a public consultation on open access to research data on July 2 in Brussels inviting statements from researchers, industry, funders, IT and data centre professionals, publishers and libraries. The inputs of these stakeholders will play some role in revising the Commission’s policy and are particularly important for the ongoing negotiations on the next big EU research programme Horizon 2020, where about 25-30 billion Euros would be available for academic research. Five questions formed the basis of the discussion:
  • How we can define research data and what types of research data should be open?
  • When and how does openness need to be limited?
  • How should the issue of data re-use be addressed?
  • Where should research data be stored and made accessible?
  • How can we enhance “data awareness” and a “culture of sharing”?
Here is how the Open Knowledge Foundation responded to the questions:

How can we define research data and what types of research data should be open?

Research data is extremely heterogeneous, and would include (although not be limited to) numerical data, textual records, images, audio and visual data, as well as custom-written software, other code underlying the research, and pre-analysis plans. Research data would also include metadata – data about the research data itself – including uncertainties and methodology, versioned software, standards and other tools. Metadata standards are discipline-specific, but to be considered ‘open’, at a bare minimum it would be expected to provide sufficient information that a fellow researcher in the same discipline would be able to interpret and reuse the data, as well as be itself openly available and machine-readable. Here, we are specifically concerned with data that is being produced, and therefore can be controlled by the researcher, as opposed to data the researcher may use that has been produced by others. When we talk about open research data, we are mostly concerned with data that is digital, or the digital representation of non-digital data. While primary research artifacts, such as fossils, have obvious and substantial value, the extent to which they can be ‘opened’ is not clear. However, the use of 3D scanning techniques can and should be used to enable the capture of many physical features or an image, enabling broad access to the artifact. This would benefit both researchers who are unable to travel to visit a physical object, as well as interested citizens who would typically be unable to access such an item. By default there should be an expectation that all types of research data that can be made public, including all metadata, should be made available in machine-readable form and open as per the Open Definition. This means the data resulting from public work is free for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute, with at most a requirement to attribute the original author(s) and/or share derivative works. It should be publicly available and licensed with this open license.

When and how does openness need to be limited?

The default position should be that research data should be made open in accordance with the Open Definition, as defined above. However, while access to research data is fundamentally democratising, there will be situations where the full data cannot be released; for instance for reasons of privacy. In these cases, researchers should share analysis under the least restrictive terms consistent with legal requirements, and abiding by the research ethics as dictated by the terms of research grant. This should include opening up non-sensitive data, summary data, metadata and code; and providing access to the original data available to those who can ensure that appropriate measures are in place to mitigate any risks. Access to research data should not be limited by the introduction of embargo periods, and arguments in support of embargo periods should be considered a reflection of inherent conservatism among some members of the academic community. Instead, the expectation should be that data is to be released before the project that funds the data production has been completed; and certainly no later than the publication of any research output resulting from it.

How should the issue of data re-use be addressed?

Data is only meaningfully open when it is available in a format and under an open license which allows re-use by others. But simply making data available is often not sufficient for reusing it. Metadata must be provided that provides sufficient documentation to enable other researchers to replicate empirical results. There is a role here for data publishers and repository managers to endeavour to make the data usable and discoverable by others. This can be by providing further documentation, the use of standard code lists, etc., as these all help make data more interoperable and reusable. Submission of the data to standard registries and use of common metadata also enable greater discoverability. Interoperability and the availability of data in machine-readable form are crucial to ensure data-mining and text-mining of the data can be performed, a form of re-use that must not be restricted. Arguments are sometimes made that we should monitor levels of data reuse, to allow us to dynamically determine which data sets should be retained. We refute this suggestion. There is a moral responsibility to preserve data created by taxpayer funds, including data that represents negative results or that is not obviously linked to publications. It is impossible to predict possible future uses, and reuse opportunities may currently exist that may not be immediately obvious. It is also crucial to note the research interests change over time.

Where should research data be stored and made accessible?

Each discipline needs different options available to store data and open it up to their community and the world; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The research data infrastructure should be based on open source software and interoperable based on open standards. With these provisions we would encourage researchers to use the data repository that best fits their needs and expectations, for example an institutional or subject repository. It is crucial that appropriate metadata about the data deposited is stored as well, to ensure this data is discoverable and can be re-used more easily. Both the data and the metadata should be openly licensed. They should be deposited in machine-readable and open formats, similar to how the US government mandate this in their Executive Order on Government Information. This ensures the possibility to link repositories and data across various portals and makes it easier to find the data. For example, the open source data portal CKAN has been developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation, which enables the depositing of data and metadata and makes it easy to find and re-use data. Various universities, such as the Universities of Bristol and Lincoln, already use CKAN for these purposes.

How can we enhance data awareness and a culture of sharing?

Academics, research institutions, funders, and learned societies all have significant responsibilities in developing a culture of data sharing. Funding agencies and organisations disbursing public funds have a central role to play and must ensure research institutions, including publicly supported universities, have access to appropriate funds for longer-term data management. Furthermore, they should establish policies and mandates that support these principles. Publication and, more generally sharing, of research data should be ingrained in the academic culture, and should be seen as a fundamental part of scholarly communication. However, it is often seen as detrimental to a career, partly as a result of the current incentive system set up by by universities and funders, partly as a result of much misunderstanding of the issues. Educational and promotional activities should be set up to promote the awareness of open access to research data amongst researchers, to help disentangle the many myths, and to encourage them to self-identify as supporting open access. These activities should be set up in recognition of the fact that different disciplines are at different stages in the development of the culture of sharing. Simultaneously, universities and funders should explore options for creating incentives to encourage researchers to publish their research data openly. Acknowledgements of research funding, traditionally limited to publications, could be extended to research data and contribution of data curators should be recognised.

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