Is open data the future of science?


The increasing demand of participation in the production of scientific knowledge from the citizens has lead to the concept of Open Science. This movement has been widely accepted among scientists worldwide, yet it is not actually practiced (Here you find a comprehensive guide to open science made by De Gruyter Open).

Indeed, open data could represent the path through which open science can be put into action.

What is open data?

Open data means to put at everyone disposal all the raw data which are produced during scientific research.  Those are called the intermediate products of scientific research, and could be collected into web platforms so that anyone all around the world can use them to produce their own results or for the falsification of  someone else’s results.

Why should a scientist do that?

As a matter of fact, right now there are not many reasons for a scientist to open his data. Actually some kind of incentive must be found. It isn’t that much difficult: Academia is a reputation economy, which means that is a system not driven by money or desire for progress, but by individual reputation (you can find a survey about that in this paper of the Social Science Research Network). Therefore, giving to data sharing a formal recognition would be enough. Easy, isn’t it?

So, why not?

The main concerns expressed by scientists are about the use of the data “against” the author itself. Data can be used for not-genuine falsification, for “scooping” the author (that means to publish the results before the one who collected data) or for non-ethical purposes. These concerns are actually licit, but could be easily avoided through a robust legislation. For example defining very specifically what the data can be used for, or that the author has the right to publish his results first (embargo).

What about the future?

imagesData will be considered as a knowledge commons, i.e. a goon that can be accessed by everyone and whose consumption is not-rivalry: its disposal does not depend on how many people use it. That concept opens the path to crowd science! Everyone can have a leading role to the creation of new knowledge. Isn’t that awesome?

So, tell us… will you open your data??

(Posted by Giulia, Lara and Elisa)



3 pensieri su “Is open data the future of science?

  1. I believe that Open Data will be the future of science. Unfortunately I also believe the the road to Open Data is still long and impervious. Let’s make an example and consider the data sharing platform Authorea ( Now, Authorea is a very well built collaborative editor for research. Scientist can insert their data, equations, tables and figures into the platform and work together on the documents, like building a Google Doc but in a scientific paper form. Plus, data are available to every Authorea member. And all this is available for free, you just need to sign up with the standard Authorea membership. However, there’s a catch. Authorea also allows you to pay a fee to become a premium member, and this in turn allows you to hide your data from the other members. I believe this is the very sign that indicates that scientist are still terribly afraid of sharing their data, and will try to oppose the natural process of Open Data. I think that an experimental platform like Authorea should not have this double log in modality, since it almost looks like it’s crippling its own efforts at data sharing.

    Mi piace

    1. Dear Caterina, I think you’re right about the fear of scientists, but forcing platforms like Authorea not to have a form of private sharing is a kind of coercion that could bring even more opposition to open data. Authorea is already a good step: usually you have to pay to publish articles as open access, in this platform is the opposite.
      On the other hand, when the advantages of sharing data will be bigger than the possible disadvantages and fears, the process will lead “naturally” to a different conception of the intermediate products.
      I personally believe that the key is education. starting from universities and research institutions. Do you agree?

      (by Giulia)

      Mi piace

      1. Dear Giulia, I do not completely agree on your view about Authorea. You are right in saying that forcing the platform to share every piece of data is counterproductive, however I feel like a bolder step towards open data would have been more effective. Only then the process towards fearless sharing of data will be really moving forward.
        On the other hand I completely agree with you about the need for education. I believe the best way to achieve this goal would be to design specific lessons on open science and open data, targeted at university students and researchers. I would also recommend courses for professors, PIs and group leaders, in order to reach every single branch of the scientific world.

        Mi piace


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