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December 13, 2011

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The Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Data Means Better Science

From PLoS Biology

Science is built on data: its collection, analysis, publication, reanalysis, critique, and reuse. However, the current system of scientific publishing works against maximum dissemination of the scientific data underlying publications. Barriers include inability to access data, restrictions on usage applied by publishers or data providers, and publication of data that is difficult to reuse, for example, because it is poorly annotated or “hidden” in unmodifiable tables like PDF documents. In addition, there is a cultural reluctance to publish data openly, for multiple reasons—from researchers' fears about releasing data “into the wild” where they lack control over its usage to a lack of incentive or credit for doing so.

In response to these problems, multiple individuals, groups, and organisations are involved in a major movement to reform the process of scientific communication. The promotion of open access and open data and the development of platforms that reduce the cost and difficulty of data handling play a principal role in this.

One such organisation is the Working Group on Open Data in Science (also known as the Open Science Working Group) at the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF). The OKF is a community-based organisation that promotes open knowledge, which encompasses open data, free culture, the public domain, and other areas of the knowledge commons. Founded in 2004, the organisation has grown into an international network of communities that develop tools, applications, and guidelines enabling the opening up of data, and subsequently the discovery and use of that data. Its working groups are in fields as broad as government, development, science, economics, archaeology, and geodata. However, all are united by the same organisational values and principles, and share a common understanding of openness, as set out in the Open Knowledge Definition (OKD; http://www.opendefinition.org/okd/).

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