Open Data and Research Data


  • Mark Taylor
  • Andy Turner
  • Helen Wallace
  • Amelia Andersdotter

At the moment too often the availability of data depends on who has the economic power to leverage their own particular interests. Open data as double-edged sword:

  1. There is a problem that the -open data- research agenda can be a way of labeling activity, and establishing particular governance, that is in corporate interests rather than public interest. Can reduce individual/ public control.
  2. At the same time, -open data- can be a way of leveraging public benefit from commercial research activity. It can be a condition of commercial research access that the results are made public.

Given that open data can be a double-edged sword, how do we ensure that any mandate to open data leverages public rather than private interests?

Legislative reform through research exemptions

There are a number of existing research exemptions in data protection legislation routes through to lawful processing of data. E.g. rules on keeping data on the purposes for which data can be used  for subject access and requests to be forgotten- Do research exemptions appropriately recognize different kinds of research, and research of different public as opposed to commercial  utility?

We need to get both researchers and the public involved in deciding the appropriateness of allowing research to do things with personal information that would not be permissible in other contexts. Where do we place the limits?

NOTE: the Sciencewise citizen engagement project could provide some pointers on how to achieve this.

Make the political aspect of open access to research data more transparent.

How can we ensure that governance works for the public interest, and decisions are made in the public and not corporate benefit. Need to get rationing decisions e.g. decisions by funders more transparent and accountable. Work on who is making what decisions, and what conditions they are applying.

This work should inform understanding of improved best practice on ethical training, ethical review and ethical audit of research practices.

Andy Turner’s Notes

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