Published on December 12, 2016
1. Pros and Cons of Open Data: A Global South Perspective Presentation to the International Committee for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) roundtable : "Actual Problems of Production and International Exchange of Scientific and Technical Information – Solutions and Challenges” Cape Town, 12 December 2016 Michelle Willmers ROER4D Curation and Dissemination Manager CC BY
2. One of the primary drivers for Open Data is that it has the potential to save and improve lives. • Open clinical data for the past 20 years accelerating identification of biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and aiding drug development processes. • Open government data helping the work of community organisations and small and medium enterprises (SMMEs), as well as promoting a more informed citizenry. • The rise of citizen science initiatives playing a significant role in environmental and conservation efforts across the globe.
3. It also good for science. • Sharing data reduces the data collection overhead. • Preparing data for publication entails scrutiny, which promotes scientific rigour. • Preparing data for publication requires data stewardship, which evolves the field of data management and promotes a more professional approach to data practice on the part of researchers. • We have a more democratic global base of data contributors, turning research “consumer” communities into data producers. • Intrinsically drives collaboration, inter-disciplinarity, and reproducibility, and increases the potential for science to address real-world issues.
4. The rise of Open Data takes place against a global backdrop in which … • Higher education and the artefacts of research and teaching are being increasingly commodified (and disaggregated). We see the rise of “Open” outputs as a new commodity. • The academic community is starting to see “everything as data”, blurring traditional divides between the research and teaching process. • New roles and professions are being established in the research production lifecycle. • Academics, projects and institutions increasingly function as self-publishers, particularly in context of serving Open Research and Open Data mandates and agendas. • Access to data support services, e-infrastructure, and resources is a principle differentiating factor in terms of who gets to “play in the sand pit”. • Researchers and academics require support and resourcing to participate in emerging scholarly communication processes.
5. There is an abundance of information online. No longer single source of scholarship (journal, book). No longer just about scholar-to-scholar communication. This changes how we locate, verify and measure new information. “Rather than finding information, it is the filtering of relevant information that is hard to do on the internet.” (David Weinberg)
6. Some tough questions and concerns regarding Open Data activity • What about global representation? • What about ownership? • What about quality? • What about privacy? • What about the challenges of stewardship, standards, and interoperability? (We cannot assume “sameness”.) • How do we attribute and track usage? • What are the reward and incentive systems that will govern activity in emerging areas of scholarly activity? • What are the implications for how we think about the scholarly record? • Who will play the role of aggregation, and who will decide the principles upon which this is done? There is a need to acknowledge global power dynamics and neo-colonial legacy.
7. “Open access to this knowledge is critical if it is to be shared between individuals and groups. But sharing alone is not enough. Knowledge only becomes useful when we can distinguish between relevant and less relevant information, when we can discuss aspects of the information, when we can annotate and improve on ideas, when we can devise new approaches and collaborate online.” (Olijhoek 2012)
8. The Global South (developing country) context has particular considerations… • Differing research cultures and protocols. • Differing understandings of ethics and consent approval processes. • Challenge of working in multi-lingual contexts. • Imperative to curate and disseminate in a manner that is accessible in resource-constrained environments. • Strategies required to overcome research infrastructure and policy framework deficits.
9. Growing global participation in Open Data activity requires … • Research capacity strengthening. Growing capacity in how to collect, manage, curate, and publish data. • The development of publishing and curatorial expertise within institutions, organisations, and research projects. • A collaborative approach towards establishment and sharing of e- infrastructure that is multi-lingual, trans-disciplinary, and agnostic in its approach. (Not just for the Life Sciences and not just about “Big Data”.) • Cohesive approach to establishing a policy and intellectual property framework.
10. References Olijhoek T (2012) Scientific social networks are the future of science. http://access.okfn.org/2012/03/20/scientific-social-networks-are-the-future-of- science/ [Posted 20 March 2012] Weinberg D (2012) http://www.toobigtoknow.com/