[open-science] Open Data in Science requires regime change

Lance McKee lmckee at opengeospatial.org
Wed Feb 24 14:30:32 UTC 2010


There is a scientific literature of "socio-technical transition", and  
that is what the OKF is engaged in. You are trying to change a  
"regime", so you need to learn how regimes are vulnerable, and then  
you need to exploit those vulnerabilities.

A regime is vulnerable to landscape changes. For example, in most  
science domains: technology is getting cheaper; data is expensive to  
produce but cheap to store and publish; publish/discover methods are  
advancing  through structured metadata, unstructured search engine  
searches, and the Semantic Web; and social relations are changing due  
to social networking and other influences.  Meanwhile, "openness" is  
advancing as a value, through open source, open standards, etc. And  
transparency is advancing as a value; note the response to  
Climategate. All these landscape changes put pressure on the Academy  
to change its business practices.

A regime is vulnerable to internal misalignment among actors – early  
adopters, change agents, mavens, etc. Some of the actors you want to  
see embrace open science are science funders, science associations and  
science publishers.

A regime is vulnerable to niche advances in the form of socio- 
technical prototypes (such as testbeds, pilot projects,  
interoperability experiments, and new web services such as eCAT,  
Parallel Archive and WolframAlpha) which:
-- Provide evidence to support later, larger actions
-- Test options, knowing some will fail
-- Pursue ambitious goals
-- Are large enough to yield observable results, but small enough to  
be affordable
-- Are designed to assess complex, socio-technical interactions
-- Assist knowledge diffusion by providing a visible model
-- Are created from scratch or by adapting another project

(I adapted the above from a presentation by Gordon Thompson at a Marsh  
Institute & Kasperson Library Seminar at Clark University 8 October  
2009. His talk was about energy system regime change and climate. He  
provided references, but I'm not enough of a scholar to go digging for  

I see vulnerabilities of the old geospatial technology regime being  
addressed in OGC activities such as the Ocean Science Interoperability  
Experiment II. Note that OGC activities are tackling technical  
interoperability issues that, incidentally, must be resolved if open  
access is to become the norm. It is NOT in the OGC's mission to  
address licensing issues, except that the Geo Rights Management  
Working Group is developing ways to convey data rights information  
from Web service to Web service. The GeoRM WG is, I would say, "rights  
agnostic", though its members have a range of opinions.

I think it is important for groups such as yours to understand the  
differences -- and similarities and synergies -- between open source,  
open standards and open access.

I would also suggest that the “four whos” questions (See "The Art of  
Systems Architecting" by Mark W. Maier and Eberhardt Rechtin) need to  
be answered if a new open data regime is to displace the old regime:  
Who benefits (in dollars and that other currency of science,  
prestige)? Who pays? Who provides? and, as the case may be, Who loses?


Lance McKee
Senior Consultant
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)
phone: 508-752-0108
cell: 508-868-2295
lmckee at opengeospatial.org

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