How open is that data?

July 21st, 2008 by dwentworth

Last week we shared the news about research Melanie Dulong de Rosnay has been conducting on the complexities of opening access to scientific data. The research has now been published over at Nature Precedings, in the form of a paper entitled, Check Your Data Freedom: A Taxonomy to Assess Life Science Database Openness.

“Molecular biology data are subject to terms of use that vary widely between databases and curating institutions,” writes de Rosnay in the abstract. “[This paper] builds upon research led by Science Commons demonstrating why open data and the freedom to integrate facilitate innovation and how this openness can be achieved. … [Most terms of use for databases] are not harmonized, [are] difficult to understand and impose controls that prevent others from effectively reusing data.”

To address the problem, the paper proposes a “checklist for data openness…to assist database curators who wish to make their data more open to make sure they do so.”

That’s not all. Our outstanding research assistant, recent MIT graduate Shirley Fung (S.B. 2007 and M.Eng 2008), helped de Rosnay with the project and has published a website that lets anyone explore and evaluate the legal and technical openness of the sample set of scientific databases (and submit more databases). Here’s a look at the home page:

Find Open Data

Browse a list of databases compliant with the Science Commons Open Access Data Protocol

Browse Policies

View databases categorized by their technical and legal accessibility regimes

Classified Databases

Find all the databases classified by the project. You also may want to use the “Browse Policies” section for a specific kinds of databases

Submit Policy

Use the questionnaire to submit a database policy to our system

If you have questions about the project, let us know.

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