Funder Dispatch – Fourth Quarter, 2009

A View of Life in the Commons

To help you stay updated on our projects and relevant developments in the world of open science, Science Commons periodically sends out brief email dispatches to its funders and other stakeholders. We hope these dispatches, which will contain news summaries and links, give you more context for the work we’re doing and help foster a deeper understanding of the issues we address.

As always, we invite your feedback and comments. If you’d like to share your thoughts or get more information about anything you read, please feel free to contact us at
What to keep an eye out for in the coming quarter …

Watch for big news in the next quarter for the GreenXchange project, as we work to prepare for its presentation at Davos 2010 hosted by the World Economic Forum this January. Also, keep an eye out for more news regarding our involvement with Sage, a non-profit formed out of Merck working to build a Commons, as they continue to build consensus and draft underlying principles in preparation for April’s Sage Congress.

What has been achieved this quarter?

In the past quarter we have been working on community development for Sage, from convening a series of international forums in October, to creating working groups, building community and preparing for upcoming events in January and April. We continue to move forward with infrastructure development for the GreenXchange, from use case development and interviews with partners such as Best Buy, Nike and Yahoo, to legal development of a common open patent license. This is in preparation for Davos 2009 hosted by WEF. The team spent a significant amount of time this fall on the road engaging with various communities and continuing the education process on open innovation, the benefits of Open Access, the Semantic Web and ontologies, and data sharing.

Project Updates

Putting Polar and Climate Change Data in the Public Domain — The Polar Information Commons

The Polar Information Commons (PIC) is a recent initiative working to create the technical means and social framework for better sharing of polar data, specifically starting with that from the International Polar Year, which came to a close in 2008. The project is funded by the International Council for Science, and has been working with Science Commons for the last year on creating terms of use to accompany their public domain data, in hope of being in adherence with the Science Commons Data Protocol. The team is now moving forward with badging data with appropriate metadata for input into their system to show the benefits of free and open data on global sharing efforts. We wish the team the best of luck as they move forward with their proof of concept. For more on the PIC, visit their Web site at <>

On the road to Davos — the GreenXchange

The GreenXchange, a project of Nike, Best Buy and Creative Commons has now blossomed in membership to include Yahoo!, SalesForce, nGenera, 2degrees, and Mountain Equipment, Co-op. This past fall has seen rapid development of not only technical support, led by the SalesForce team, but also infrastructure development led by Creative Commons in the form of use cases and legal drafting of a means of licensing patents and know how. This work is in preparation of the upcoming Davos 2009 event hosted by WEF, where the GreenXchange will be presented to top CEOs and heads of business. The GreenXchange is our first user as we continue the drafting and feedback phases to create a common patent license, with their focus in sustainability and open innovation.

News & Developments In the Community

Sage Concludes Series of Regional Meetings, Prepares for April Congress

Sage, the non-profit entity formed out of Merck & Co, Inc, has taken the first steps in its mission to build a ‘Commons’ of widely accessible globally-coherent databases and tools. Sage and Science Commons, the wing of Creative Commons dedicated to making the Web work for science, have held public forums in Boston, San Francisco and the UK to introduce the organization and the concept to researchers, funders, and publishers. The enthusiastic reception has established a foundation for the core working committees that will meet at the working meeting in Boston in January, and at the Commons Congress next April. Stay tuned for more on Sage in the coming months.

Ontology News:  OWL 2 Recommended by W3C, New Resource on Copyright Considerations

Important (and exciting) news in the world of shared vocabularies at Science Commons, a key component of our technical work to make knowledge sharing more efficient. As of last week, OWL 2 — a standard web ontology language — was formally recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as part of their Semantic Web activity. Science Commons’ Alan Ruttenberg has been diligently working with the OWL working group specifying OWL 2 at the W3C to push this recommendation through. (Ruttenberg is the co-chair with Ian Horrocks at Oxford.) The W3C says that the transition to OWL 2 is a reflection of user experience with OWL, and the need to enable seamless integration and scalability. From the W3C’s announcement: “[OWL 2] allows people to capture their knowledge about a particular domain (say, energy or medicine) and then use tools to manage information, search through it, and learn more from it. Furthermore, as an open standard based on Web technology, it lowers the cost of merging knowledge from multiple domains.” Also, building off of our existing work around the application of copyright licenses to content and data, there is now a resource available at that sheds light on copyright considerations for ontologies.

We have long been asked what is the best means to license (or not) ontologies, a topic that’s not always easy to discern in terms of applicable rights regimes. The resource explores when copyright may apply to an ontology as well as a number of other concerns regarding protection and the means to achieve that. You can find this resource — “Ontology Copyright Licensing Considerations” — in our Reading Room: copyrightlicensing-considerations

Wilbanks named one of Utne Reader’s 50 visionaries

John Wilbanks, VP of Science at Creative Commons, has been named one of Utne Reader’s 50 visionaries, along with others ranging from the Dalai Lama, to Cory Doctorow and Brewster Kahle.

The piece, “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”, is the second of its kind coming from Utne Reader, an alternative news bi-monthly magazine based in the US. The list also drills down into some of the background on each of the “visionaries” — in this case crediting the work at Science Commons as pushing forth a “nerdy but important message” of access and sharing in the sciences to spur innovation and discovery.

“We have a network of knowledge,” Wilbanks says. “We need to liberate it enough that it can actually take off.”

To learn more about the other visionaries, click <>.

Science Commons, on the road and on the Web

Open Access Week Roundup

John Wilbanks, the Vice President of Science for Creative Commons, gave a series of talks as part of the recent Open Access Week, a global event used to raise awareness on the need and benefits of Open Access to research. The first his talks was a Q&A webinar on repositories and the digital commons hosted by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. Next was a panel discussion at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO with George Strawn (CIO of the National Science Foundation) on revolutions in information technology, interoperability, and “big science”. Along with the panel discussion, NCAR also passed an open access policy, making it the first of NSF’s Federally Funded Research and Development Centers to adopt an OA mandate. The last of Wilbanks’ talks for the week was given at Harvard Law School, where he spoke on the significance of open access to research.

For more information on Open Access Week and how you can get involved, visit:

Discussion Data Sharing and Licensing Implications at ISWC

This year’s International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC) featured a four-hour long tutorial on the legal and social issues surrounding data sharing, the linked data movement, and Science Commons’ position on data sharing. The event was on October 25, in Chantilly, VA just outside of Washington, DC. The tutorial, “Legal and Social Frameworks for Sharing Data on the Web” brought together a series of experts on data sharing, from Science Commons’ Kaitlin Thaney, Open Data Commons lawyer Jordan Hatcher, to Leigh Dodds and Tom Heath from Talis – a UK-based technology company. The tutorial identified some of the legal and social issues commonly found in data publishing, using the Linked Data Cloud as a leading example of how copyright restrictions, complex licenses and lack of clarity can quickly exacerbate problems for data sharing efforts. Thaney highlighted a number of the social and semantic components to be aware of, as well as the reasoning behind our public domain position for data. More information about this year’s lineup can be found here:

Data Sharing, Ontologies and Estuarian Research

This past November Science Commons’ Alan Ruttenberg and Kaitlin Thaney were both featured speakers at “Ecoinformatics — Maximizing your data: What can informatics do for you?” This was a part of an informatics focused side meeting called the Salmon Data Access Working Group (SalDAWG) and was part of the larger Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s 20th Biennial Conference.

The event was held at the Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. Thaney kicked off the two-day session, speaking about open science and the legal issues surrounding, semantics, and technical barriers involved in data sharing. Ruttenberg gave a talk about building ontologies for science, sharing his expertise in biomedical ontologies and the Semantic Web. For more information about the event. presentations, and background, visit:

Creative Commons tours the Middle East

John Wlbanks joined Creative Commons CEO Joi Ito and General Counsel Diane Peters in the Middle East for a week of development in one of the most important new regions for commons-based development. Wilbanks spoke in Amman at a Creative Commons Jordan event, in Beirut at Global Entrepreneurship Week, and in Alexandria at the eIFL General Assembly, as well as attending the Internet Governance Forum in Sharm el Sheikh. More work in the Middle East is expected, with Syria, Qatar, Dubai, and more targeted for meetings and development in 2010.