copy the linklink copied!2. International initiatives promoting enhanced access to publicly funded data for science, technology and innovation

Abstract

This chapter gives an overview of international initiatives in favour of enhanced access to publicly funded data for science, technology and innovation (STI), both on data from publicly funded research, as well as initiatives related to the broader category of public-sector information, which is increasingly being used as an input to STI. It starts by an overview of the achievements of the 2006 OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding. It then reviews European Commission initiatives, as well as community-driven initiatives, and G7 and UNESCO work on the subject.

    

copy the linklink copied!Initiatives pertaining to data from publicly funded research

The OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding

The OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding (hereafter “the Recommendation”) and the related OECD Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding (OECD, 2006) resulted from work of the OECD Committee on Scientific and Technological Policy (CSTP) accomplished since 2001, including the Ministerial Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding (OECD, 2004). They represent an important step in multilateral efforts to create the conditions for opening up access to data in the field of science, technology and innovation (STI).

A subsequent review by the OECD in 2009 showed many positive impacts of the Recommendation, notably the advancement of science through an accelerated research process, the emergence and development of new avenues of research beyond the initial context in which the data were collected and improved research quality (OECD, 2009). Other positive impacts included: i) enhancing research collaboration, both domestically and globally; ii) facilitating cross-disciplinary research; iii) preventing duplication of research; iv) conducting more research based on the same data; v) counteracting misconduct and increasing transparency; vi) validating and/or correcting previous results through re-analysis; vii) training new researchers by replicating studies; viii) boosting public confidence in research results; and ix) improving the evaluation and accountability of public funding. The negative impacts mainly concerned intellectual property right (IPR) issues and the costs associated with enabling access to data. The review highlighted issues such as access to data by foreign researchers and entities, researchers’ desire to be the first to publish results, and the actual or perceived IPR problems involved in collaborative projects between the public and private sector. In addition, costs associated with documenting and describing data and collection procedures were mentioned, as well as the fact that the original data producer would have to bear these costs (OECD, 2009).1

In 2017, the OECD-CSTP conducted a survey on access-to-data policies among policymakers from 27 countries, particularly within science or assimilated (i.e. technology, innovation and education) ministries. A total of 55 institutions responded to the questionnaire; for most countries the response came from Ministries of Science or assimilated (Technology, Innovation, Education and Science, etc.). However, representatives of research institutes, funding agencies and repositories were also broadly represented (Figure 2.1).

Influence of the OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding

Respondents to the 2017 OECD-CSTP survey were asked to assess the influence of the Recommendation on each of the initiatives undertaken (Figure 2.2).

Overall, the number of initiatives has grown over time, demonstrating the rising importance of data access. Even though some selection bias could exist – whereby respondents are more likely to include more recent initiatives – this trend seems quite pronounced, with only 6 initiatives in 2006-08, compared to 67 initiatives in 2015-17.

Examining the qualitative responses, the Recommendation is seen to have had a strong influence on the following types of initiatives:

  • strategies, policies and laws focused on open access to data in research

  • policies and strategies addressing the knowledge-based economy and society

  • studies and guidelines on research-data management.

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Figure 2.1. Respondent institutions
Institutions that responded to the 2017 OECD-CSTP survey concerning policy practice in supporting enhanced access to data for STI
Figure 2.1. Respondent institutions

Source: Answers from OECD member countries and partner economies.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934112538

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Figure 2.2. Influence of the OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding
From the 2017 OECD-CSTP survey concerning policy practice in supporting enhanced access to data for STI
Figure 2.2. Influence of the OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding

Note: A relatively stable proportion of answers state the Recommendation’s influence on around 40% of all initiatives was “important” or “highly important”.

Source: Answers from OECD member countries and partner economies.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934112557

The Recommendation is likely to have had less impact in the following situations:

  • broader open-government and public-sector information (PSI) initiatives, which cover data from public research as one of many different subsets of PSI (see Table 1.1), and as such do not focus on specificities of research data

  • initiatives concerning data collected by private-sector entities

  • initiatives in partner economies that have not yet adhered to the Recommendation (but are starting to consider it as a policy reference)

  • in a few cases, lack of awareness of the Recommendation (even among OECD member countries).

Respondents also mentioned that although the Recommendation remains an important reference, they are also taking into account other international guidelines, such as the European Commission 2012 Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information (European Commission, 2012), the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) (ZBW – Leibnitz Information Center for Economics, 24 January 2016), the Open Government Partnership (Open Government Partnership, 2014) and the Amsterdam call for open science (Government of the Netherlands, 2016).

Achievement of Recommendation objectives

The Recommendation’s aims and objectives for advancing the data-access agenda include:

  1. 1. promoting a culture of openness and sharing of research data among the public-research communities within OECD member countries and beyond

  2. 2. stimulating the exchange of good practices in data access and sharing

  3. 3. saising awareness about the potential costs and benefits of restrictions, and limitations on access to and sharing of research data from public funding

  4. 4. highlighting the need to consider data access, and share regulations and practices, when developing OECD member countries’ science policies and programmes

  5. 5. providing a commonly agreed framework of operational principles for establishing research-data access arrangements in OECD member countries

  6. 6. offering recommendations to member countries on improving the international research-data sharing and distribution environment.

Respondents were asked to assess the relevance of each of these objectives, as well as current policy effort related to them (Figure 2.3).

Ranking between 3.9 and 4.5 on the Likert scale, the overall relevance of the objectives is high, tending towards “very high” in some cases. Policy effort averages between 3 and 4 on the Likert scale, ranging from moderate to high.

Although Objective 2 on good-practice sharing is assigned the highest relevance, the policy effort dedicated to this objective is “moderate” rather than “high”. Respondents report that good-practice sharing occurs mostly in seminars and conferences. Some countries report the establishment of communities of practice, as well as membership in international fora. However, many respondents report insufficient structured institutional or policy effort in this respect.

The objective perceived as commanding the highest policy effort is Objective 1 on promoting a culture of openness and data sharing, which is the core goal of most open access to data initiatives. Some respondents (Japan and Korea) point to differences across disciplines, with physics and biomedical sciences spearheading the trend towards openness.

Objective 4, including data and sharing in science policies, also ranks highly in both relevance and policy effort. Some countries, such as Finland, the Netherlands and France have implemented comprehensive open-science policies; others, such as Norway, include data access in individual policies, including in funding regulations. Moreover, Denmark, Korea and Canada report that open access to data is not always specifically addressed in science policies. Canada, for example, deals with access issues through the Federal Government policy instruments (the Policy on Service and Digital and the Directive on Open Government) and a tri-agency open-access policy on publications and statement of principles on data management.

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Figure 2.3. Relevance and current policy effort dedicated to achieving the objectives of the OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding
From the 2017 OECD-CSTP survey concerning policy practice in supporting enhanced access to data for STI
Figure 2.3. Relevance and current policy effort dedicated to achieving the objectives of the OECD Recommendation of the Council concerning Access to Research Data from Public Funding

Notes: An average score was computed from the responses on a Likert scale: (1= “none”; 2= “slight”; 3= “moderate”; 4= “high”; 5= “very high”). The average assigns equal weight to countries, i.e. if several assessments are submitted by country, those were averaged out first, and the average score of the country was used for the overall average. The error bars show the statistical error on the mean score, at a 68% confidence level.

Source: Answers from OECD member countries and partner economies.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934112576

The framework of operational principles (Objective 5) ranks as the next priority. Respondents quote the formulation of the findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability (FAIR) principles (Wilkinson et al., 2016) as a good basis for the framework, but further efforts are needed to operationalise those principles. Canada has issued a specific guidance document on releasing scientific data and is addressing the licensing issue under an Open Government Licence. The European Commission has published the Guidelines on FAIR Data Management in Horizon 2020 (H2020) which encompasses rules on open access to scientific publications and open access to research data (European Commission, 2016a), and requires a data-management plan as a key element for good data management in research projects.

Awareness of the potential costs and benefits of limiting access to data and sharing (Objective 3) ranks relatively low compared to other objectives, especially considering the policy effort, which is seen as moderate. Although respondents agree the objective is important, the policies in place are relatively limited. The European Commission is preparing to conduct a study that will evaluate the costs of FAIR data to the EU economy, as well as estimate the costs and benefits of implementing the FAIR principles. Moreover, a number of pertinent research projects are being funded through H 2020.

Improving the international data-sharing and distribution environment also ranks relatively low. Countries report participating in many international fora, including the Research Data Alliance (RDA), the European Science Cloud and the GO (Global Open) FAIR initiative, the Group of Seven (G7) Working Group on Open Science, the Group of Senior Officials on Global Research Infrastructure and the Global Science Forum. However, the issue of data access is primarily addressed at the national level. The final statement from the Group of Twenty (G20) meeting in 2016 also “encourage[d] discussion on open science and access to publicly funded research results on findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable (FAIR) principles in order to increase collaboration on science and research activities” (G20, 2016).

European Commission initiatives

In 2012, the European Commission issued a Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information calling for co-ordinated open access to scientific publications and data, preservation and reuse of scientific information, and the development of e-infrastructures among EU member states (European Commission, 2012). This Recommendation was updated in 2018, extending the application of “open access that policies aim to provide researchers and the public at large with access to peer-reviewed scientific publications, research data and other research outputs free of charge in an open and non-discriminatory manner as early as possible in the dissemination process, and enable the use and re-use of scientific research results”. It also underlines data-management planning is becoming a standard scientific practice (European Commission, 2018a).

In 2016, the European Commission published its Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World vision, incorporating its ambitious plans for an EOSC (European Commission, 2016b). The EOSC aims to provide EU researchers with an environment offering free and open services for data storage, management, analysis and reuse across disciplines, achieved through connecting existing and emerging infrastructures, adding value and leveraging past infrastructure investment. The EOSC is expected to develop common specifications and tools to ensure data are FAIR and legally compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation and cybersecurity legislation of the European Union. It also foresees mechanisms for cost recovery on cross-border access (European Commission, 2018a).

Community-led initiatives

The FAIR data principles were developed by a diverse set of stakeholders representing academia, scholarly publishers, industry and funding agencies. They are now becoming a mainstream reference for policy makers (Wilkinson et al., 2016) (Table 2.1).

The RDA is an international forum which also enables the discussion and sharing of good practices. It was initiated in 2013 by the European Commission, the United States National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards, and the Australian Government’s Department of Innovation, with the goal of building the social and technical infrastructure to enable open sharing of data. As of September 2017, the RDA had 43 organisational members and 6 000 individual members from 130 countries. RDA operates working groups that work on recommendations, which can be adopted as standards, as well as a number of supporting outputs (RDA, 2014). RDA recommendations address a broad range of issues related to interoperability, data citation, data catalogues and work flows for research-data publishing (RDA, 2017).

The Committee on Data (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ISC) was founded in 1966 to further the ISC vision of science as a global public good. CODATA promotes the FAIR principles and, more broadly, global collaboration to advance open science, and improve the availability and usability of data in all areas of research. The main priority areas of CODATA are: i) promoting principles, policies and practices for open data and open science; ii) advancing the frontiers of data science; and iii) building capacity for open science, by improving data skills and the functions of the national science systems necessary to support open data (CODATA, 2016).

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Table 2.1. Overview of FAIR principles

FAIR principles

Action items

Technical requirements

Findable: data should be easily found by humans and machines alike

  • Establish portals and open-science clouds

  • Globally unique and persistent identifiers

  • Data indexed in a searchable database

Accessible: as open as possible, as closed as necessary

  • Use open licensing whenever possible

  • Establish trusted-user access for more sensitive datasets

  • Machine readability

  • Standardised communication protocol

  • Metadata are accessible – even after the data are no longer available

Interoperable: datasets need to be combinable with other datasets

  • Three aspects of interoperability: semantic (taxonomy), legal (rights) and technical (machine readability)

  • Standard-setting activities

  • Semantic interoperability – common vocabulary

  • Data include relevant references to other datasets

Reusable: it must be possible to reuse and further process data in future research projects

  • Data curation

  • Open Archival Information System (OAIS)-compliant repositories

  • Metadata are exhaustive

  • Data describe multiple precise and appropriate properties

  • Data are released with a clear and accessible data licence

  • Data are connected to their origin

  • Data meet standards relevant to the field

Source: OECD (2018), OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook 2018, https://doi.org/10.1787/sti_in_outlook-2018-en.

Founded in 2011, Science Europe is an association of European research-funding organisations that represents the scientific community within the common European research area. Science Europe advocates free access to publications and scientific data, good practices in research-data management, and reform of copyright law to ensure that legally accessed content can be freely mined without additional permission and cost (Science Europe, 2015).

A recent initiative that is gaining momentum is the set of FAIR principles (Wilkinson et al., 2016). These principles are championed by FORCE11 – The Future of Research Communications and E-scholarship, a non-government, multidisciplinary community established after the 2011 “Beyond the PDF” meeting in San Diego and dedicated to transforming scholarly communications through technology. Academics and policymakers in many countries are quickly adopting FAIR principles as a new reference. Among recent analyses relative to FAIR, one can cite the report and action plan of the Expert Group set up by the European Commission “Turning FAIR Data to Reality”, published in 2018 (European Commission, 2018b).

The Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) guidelines were created by journals, funders and societies to align scientific ideals with existing practices. The TOP guidelines and standards cover data citation; data transparency; software; research materials, design and analysis; preregistration of study and analysis plans; and replication. Journals select the transparency standards they wish to adopt and decide on a level of implementation for each standard (TOP, 2014).

Other initiatives

In 2011, UNESCO adopted a Revised Draft Strategy on UNESCO’s Contribution to the Promotion of Open Data to Scientific Information and Research (UNESCO, 2011). The document calls for UNESCO to provide policy advice on the development of comprehensive national open-access to data policies, strengthen the capacities to adopt open access to data, serve as a clearing house and inform the global open-access to data debate. A year later, UNESCO published its Policy guidelines for the development and promotion of open access (Swan, 2012).

The Group of Seven (G7) Science and Technology Ministers’ Meeting held in Tsukuba City (Japan) in 2016 decided to establish a working group on open science. The working group identified three action points as essential to the transition to open science: i) adopting a common vision; ii) adapting incentive and reward systems; and iii) developing a federated research-data infrastructure (ZBW – Leibnitz Information Center for Economics, 24 November 2016). Based on the report from the working group, the G7 Science Ministers identified incentives for researchers and infrastructures as new targets of the working group in Turin (Italy) in 2017. As mandated by the G7 Science Ministers, the working group continues discussing the promotion of global open science.

copy the linklink copied!Initiatives related to public-sector information

Beyond data resulting from publicly funded research, a broader set of PSI is very relevant to research, as discussed in Chapter 1 and Figure 1.2. Therefore this section presents a brief overview of these initiatives.

The OECD Recommendation of the Council for Enhanced Access and More Effective Use of Public Sector Information (OECD, 2008) provides policy guidelines to improve access to and increase the use of PSI through greater transparency, enhanced competition and more competitive pricing. It aims to enhance the economic and social benefits derived from better access, and wider use and reuse of PSI. A subsequent evaluation concluded the Recommendation significantly contributed to policy making in this domain (OECD, 2015). It was used as a reference for developing practical approaches to PSI, e.g. to apply PSI principles in portal and licence design or strengthen some aspects of transparency and proactive openness. The principles on openness, access and transparent conditions for reuse, asset lists, copyright and pricing were deemed particularly useful (OECD, 2015).

In June 2013, the Group of Eight (G8) leaders signed the Open Data Charter, which sets five principles: i) open data by default; ii) data quality and quantity; iii) data usable by all; iv) releasing data for improved governance; and v) releasing data for innovation (G8, 2013).

The European Union followed up with an implementation plan featuring specific action points, such as committing to publish key datasets (including the budget of the European Union, EU Parliament election results, and data about EU staff, finance and contracts) under open licence; these are available on the European Union Open Data Portal, which now contains 11 600 datasets. The European Union also committed to encouraging all member states to apply the G8 Open Data Charter (European Commission, 2013).

The International Open Data Charter, initiated at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in 2015, is a collaboration between governments and experts around six principles stipulating how governments should publish information: i) key datasets2 are open by default; ii) data is timely and comprehensive; iii) data is accessible and usable (i.e. available online in machine-readable format, available in bulk for easy downloading, free of charge and open-licensed); iv) data is comparable and interoperable; v) data contributes to improved governance and citizen engagement; vi) data contributes to inclusive development and innovation. The International Open Data Charter has been joined by 17 national3 and 30 local and subnational governments (International Open Data Charter, 2017).

Data integration – i.e. linking different datasets to fully exploit the significance of data – represents another major challenge for governments. In the United Kingdom, linking information from hospitals with the cancer-data repository and data from various screening programmes made it possible to recommend changes in medical protocols that should improve cancer survival rates. Data integration needs to be done in a way that preserves citizens’ personal privacy. The Government of Australia recently launched an AUD 131 million data-integration partnership initiative to maximise the use and value of the government’s data assets including to improve linkages among government datasets (Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, n.d.).

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Notes

← 1. It should be noted here that current understanding of business models for data provision will be further discussed in Chapter 4.

← 2. Such as budget, spending, contracting, land ownership, company registries, legislation and election results.

← 3. Australia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. Only seven of these are OECD member countries.

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