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.