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“Open Data in a Big Data World” accord passes 120 endorsements

An accord to promote open access to “big data” that are the basis of advanced research has passed 120 endorsements, and the list includes prominent science organizations that support the principles of open data through dedicated commitments.

The accord, “Open Data in a Big Data World”, was developed by four international science organizations and proposes 12 principles to guide open access to publicly funded big data. Open data is critical to assure the rigour of research findings because it would provide researchers worldwide with the opportunity to replicate experiments and observations – basically revisiting and double-checking the research results and verifying conclusions. For least-developed countries, open data provides an opportunity to participate more fully in the global research enterprise.

The four science organizations behind the campaign are: the International Council for Science (ICSU); the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP); the International Social Science Council (ISSC); and The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS). Collectively, they represent more than 280 national, regional and global science organizations worldwide, with individual members at the highest levels of scientific research, policy and education.

These four organizations work in the framework of Science International, a joint initiative to develop and promote strong policies for science at the global level. For this first campaign, Science International partners collaborated with CODATA, the ICSU Committee on Data.

“The support from the research community for Science International and our Big Data/Open Data campaign shows the importance of this topic to all scientific domains. In little more than a year. academicians, researchers and international organizations have endorsed the principles laid out in our Accord – calling for open data as a fundamental pre-requisite in maintaining the rigour of scientific inquiry and maximising public benefit from the data revolution,” said Heide Hackmann, Executive Director of the International Council for Science.

Organizations wishing to endorse the accord can still do so online.

The list of endorsers includes a broad range of different scientific institutions from around the world, from regional and national academies and councils, to international scientific organizations, universities and research institutions, libraries, museums and civil society groups.

The list includes many regional and national science academies, representing Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, the Caribbean, Colombia, Ethiopia, Hungary, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, South Africa and Switzerland. International scientific unions have also endorsed the accord, including the unions on mathematics, pure and applied chemistry, soil sciences and toxicology.  Also among the endorsers are universities, university libraries, research institutes and civil society groups.

The big data revolution presents scientists across the world a profound cultural challenge: a need for a greater willingness to share their most finely detailed information with other researchers, and to do it large-scale. Limits on access to big data raise the risk that progress will slow in areas as diverse as advanced health research, environmental protection, food production and development of smart cities.

The 12 proposed principles in the accord would guide the practice and practitioners of open data. The principles focus on the roles played by scientists, publishers, libraries and others, as well as technical requirements for open data – for example, urging publicly funded scientists to make such data openly available to others as soon as possible in ways that permit them to be reused and repurposed.

These 120 endorsements demonstrate an interest in opening up the world’s databases so that scientists worldwide can analyze them in the course of solving research challenges.

Leaders of the four organizations launched a global campaign for endorsements of the accord at the first Science International meeting in December 2015 at Science Forum South Africa in Pretoria. Since then, the organizations behind Science International have been encouraging discussion and adoption of the accord’s principles by their respective members and other scientific bodies.

Organizations with a broad variety of interests have since backed the accord, many detailing their future plans in support of its principles.

For example, ISRIC World Soil Information, a global centre for soil data, is planning wide range of open datasets and web services that will be helpful to solving food insecurity, climate change, environmental degradation, water scarcity and threats to biodiversity. The International Mathematical Union is planning to use its Committee on Electronic Information and Communication to draw attention to the importance among mathematicians to open data. Mathematicians are especially crucial for developing ways to analyse and organize large amounts of data, such as data-mining.

The Network of Academies of Science in Countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (NASIC) planned a discussion on open data at its October 2016 conference in Malaysia. The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is planning to advertise its endorsement of the accord to its scientific community of nearly 10,000. The Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) agreed to promote the accord’s principles across the region, and has published a Spanish translation of the accord.

Future Earththe international sustainability research platform, said it would continue work with the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to support the open data principles. And the State and University Library of Göttingen, Germany, committed to completing a platform to encourage university researchers to openly publish their research data. Open-access scientific publisher Ubiquity Press, based in the United Kingdom, said it will continue grow and expand the data journals platform, adding new features and connecting to a wider community.

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