05 January 2006

Open Data - Good; Open Access - Bad?

Great story in Nature about data mashups - the mixing together of data drawn from disparate sources to create a sum greater than the parts.

This approach is not new: it lies at the heart of open source software - where chunks of code are drawn from the specialised databases known as hackers' brains and stitched together - and open genomics. Indeed, bioinformatics represents a kind of apotheosis of the mashup - see, for example, the way in which data from many researchers is pulled together in a genome browser like Ensembl.

Data mashups are more recent, and have started to gain popularity thanks to Google Earth. This provides a useful and conceptually simple scaffolding for other data to be brought together and displayed - like Nature's own avian flu mashup.

A pity, then, that this paean to the virtues of open data is not itself freely available under an open access licence. (For the benighted, the indispensable Open Access News has a long quotation that conveys the essence.)

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