Week 11 Service Review: Open Data Day

By Auregann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19833261
By Auregann – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19833261

QUT Library offers a host of services and tools for researchers in online and physical forms. I attended the Open Data: It’s Good Science event organised by QUT Library as part of International Data Week. This event was aimed mainly at researchers to introduce open data and its benefits.

Dr Markus Rittenbruch spoke first, saying to be considered truly open, the data needs to be accessible, free of charge and free to use. The benefits of open data being made available included increased governmental transparency and improved services like garbage disposal in areas that needed them. Open data was also highly useful in cases of emergency like the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone because it helped aid organisers see where help was most needed.

Dr Anisa Rowhani-Farid spoke on the importance of open data in the medical research field. As well as cutting the financial wastage and expense of repeatedly performing experiments, she said it could be a way of verifying research and making sure scientists weren’t cherry picking data to support their theories. Open data science could have prevented cases like Elizabeth Holmes who claimed to have developed a way to run blood tests for multiple ailments like using only a drop of blood.

Unlike the other speakers, Dr Rowhani-Farid also brought up the opposers of open data. The term ‘research parasites’ was coined by a highly contested New England Journal of Medicine editorial that suggested people wishing to use other’s data should work together with the original data and. However, this could be difficult due to factors like the distance between researchers and the expense it takes to travel, particularly if those wishing to use the data are from a disadvantaged institution. A response to the editorial from Science Magazine can be read here.

This disagreement feeds in to Dr Rowhani-Farid’s identification of barriers to increasing open data in science are researchers’ fears they could hurt their careers. Additionally, there are no current rewards for sharing data. Suggestions like displayable virtual badges have been made.

In terms of how research could be made available, QUT Copyright Officer Jessica Stevens discussed what Creative Commons licence researchers could place their work under so it could be used by others.  Of the six licenses, she strongly recommended using the Attribution Share Alike licence so people could freely build on the research already done.  Creative Commons gives more data-related information here.

This was a thought-provoking session that made me look at open data from several different perspectives. I had heard a little of the information before in previous classes such as how open data can be used to monitor crises but I found Dr Rowhani-Farid’s talk brought up things I had never considered before. There could have involved more practical information such as Ms Stevens’ information on licences, but I understand that the session could only run for an hour. I believe it gave enough information on open data that a researcher would leave  knowing more and could further investigate the issue for themselves.

17 thoughts on “Week 11 Service Review: Open Data Day”

  1. Hi Chloe. Your post gave me a deeper insight into open data, which is a fairly new concept to me. I did not realise how beneficial it was during the Ebola Virus outbreak. This is one of the best arguments for open data in my opinion. The researchers who allowed their work to be made available should be recognised and applauded for their contribution to humanity. In response to the opposers’ argument, researchers who build on the work of others will need to attribute the work. Distance should not be a barrier as there are many ways to communicate remotely, right?

    1. Hi Karen,

      There certainly are ways to communicate remotely so perhaps my arguement doesn’t stand up. Another issue for the original set of researchers and a new set of researchers working on the same data together is that time may have passed and the original group of researchers disbanded or working on other things. Should the set of researchers who want to work on the open data wait til they’re all ready? They could be waiting a while.

      1. Hi Chloe,

        Thanks for a great service review.

        This sounds like a very informative session that I wish I attended. As Karen mentioned above, It didn’t occur to me how important open access is to issues like ebola. Thanks for sharing these new perspectives, it has given me a lot to think about.

        In regards to researchers waiting on other researchers, I think this is a concerning issue. It is important to researchers that their topic remains relevant, so I don’t think they should wait. It perhaps could be the thing where those who abandoned get their name on the paper. Seems like it could be a messy situation

        1. Thanks Ashlee, I’m glad you liked it! I’d recommend keeping an eye out on the research section of the library, as there may be another event like it next year. There’s also a lot of interesting stuff you can check out online like data.gov.au – https://www.data.gov.au/ – which encourages people to use public data to come up with.

          I agree with your take on the no-wait research, as by the time everyone is assembled it might have been done by someone else entirely. And yes, there’s potential for a lot of arguements with matters like who should be credited. I think this is why people need to be using the creative commons licences when putting their work out there, so researchers can start using the data right away rather than having to wait for permission and any other formalities/negotiations.

  2. Hi Chloe, open data is really interesting, isn’t it? I suppose I would access open data through the ABS, and when I get a regional profile from the QLD government’s Statistician’s Office. And in terms of medical and health research, sharing research data has the potential to accelerate research advances. This is a good thing. I can imagine there being some resistance to it though; research is competitive, with people competing for research dollars. Perhaps researchers don’t want to share their data in case someone else makes a big breakthrough based on their data, and they miss out on a Nobel prize. Or maybe research is being funded by a commercial organisation that has an interest in the research findings. That data might be less likely to be shared.

    1. Hi Michele,

      You’re right about the competition, as Dr Rowhani-Farid did bring that up as a reason why people might not want to share their work. Erin McKiernan retweeted an excellent answer to a question asked of her that was about whether or not she was afraid that by opening up her data, someone might see something she’d missed and get the glory. Someone answered the questioner by saying if Erin hadn’t opened up her data, the world would have missed out on the knowledge the new researcher had found. I’m afraid I can’t find the tweet now but here is Erin’s twitter – https://twitter.com/emckiernan13?lang=en

  3. Hi Chloe, I wish I’d attended thos Open Data Day. It is really important to get differing perspectives on the issue. I certainly see open access alleviating the digital divide in developing countries where presently many academic institutions and healthcare departments do not have the funding for valuable journal subscriptions. Even in the first world, the benefits to researchers, students, healthcare workers and patients, not to mention the tax-paying public seem significant as discussed by ‘The Right to Research Coalition’ (http://www.righttoresearch.org/learn/whyoa/index.shtml). Somehow, I don’t think that Reed-Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer and Sage publishing companies (http://www.sciencealert.com/these-five-companies-control-more-than-half-of-academic-publishing) are advocating open access as much!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      You’re right about the major publishing agencies not wanting to see other forms of publising get popular. There’s a really interesting article here about the potential future of publishers and open data in the biomedical field – https://datascience.nih.gov/blog/publish-or-perish.

      Thank you for the Right To Research link, they look like a really interesting advocacy organisation. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them.

  4. Hi Chloe, Great post. I was thoroughly engaged in the topic of digital divide last semester in IFN612, and find the issue an important one for all Australians to be exposed, not just those studying or working in IS/ LIP . I was very surprised to learn that there are 4 million Australians that have no access to the internet. And the problem is not just about access; I suspect that millions of others that do have access would not possess adequate information literacy skills to allow them to make proper use of the information available. The Australian Human Rights Commission (https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/background-paper-human-rights-cyberspace/8-right-access-internet) may be considering making access to the internet a right for the Australian people, but without them having information literacy skills training, their right to internet access does not count for much. This is very interesting field related to social justice, one I’d love to do some research in.

  5. Hi Chloe, By reading this well structured and thoughtful review with loads of great links I could almost feel I was there! I will be looking at these in more depth later as I am very curious about open data. I also found your insight on Creative Commons useful. Thank you! Anitra

  6. Hi Chloe,

    Interesting review. I’m surprised there was no mention of altmetrics in the session. There are potential benefits that relate to a researcher’s profile (and CV) in this regard. For example, if a researcher shares their data through Figshare, or GitHub, then research tracking tools (eg. altmetrics.com or PlumX) can give the researcher metrics they can use to measure the impact of their research beyond the citation. They can then pull this data neatly into their ORCID ID, or other research profile. Similarly to publishing in institutional repositories, this should work as a pull factor in encouraging researchers to share their data openly.

    Links to check out:

    1. Hi Tim,

      Thanky you for sharing those links, this is really interesting! I wasn’t able to mention everything that happened in the day due to lack of wordcount but I don’t remember anyone mentioning these. As you said, that’s definitely another compelling reason for researchers to make their data available for further use and could also be used as a way to potentially credit them too?

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