14 March 2009

Why We Need Open Data

Despite the good-natured ding-dong he and I are currently engaged in on another matter, Peter Murray-Rust is without doubt one of the key individuals in the open world. He's pretty much the godfather of the term "open data", as he writes:

Open Data has come a long way in the last 2-3 years. In 2006 the term was rarely used - I badgered SPARC and they generously created a set up a mailing list. I also started a page on Wikipedia in 2006 so it’s 2-and-a-half years old.

The same post gives perhaps the best explanation of why open data is important; it's nominally about open data in science, but its points are valide elsewhere too:

* Science rests on data. Without complete data, science is flawed.

* Many of todays global challenges require scientific data. Climate, Health, Agriculture…

* Scientists are funded to do research and to make the results available to everyone. This includes the data. Funders expect this. So does the world.

* The means of dissemination of data are cheap and universal. There is no technical reason why all the data in all the chemistry research in the world should not be published into the cloud. It’s small compared with movies…

* Data needs cleaning, flitering, repurposing, re-using. The more people who have access to this, the better the data and the better the science.

Open data is still something of a Cinderella in the open world, but as Peter's comments make clear, that's likely to change as more people realise its centrality to the entire open endeavour.

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