[open-science] How can we encourage replies to IsItOpenData?

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Fri Apr 15 15:58:23 UTC 2011

[I have forked the title. Suggest fossils continue on old thread].

On Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 4:23 PM, Ross Mounce <ross.mounce at gmail.com> wrote:

> > Being allowed to extract our (i.e. the scientific community) own data
> from our own publications without being sued. It's a sad fact that > one of
> the miain functions of the OKF is to enlighten the world that almost
> everything is not open and to encourage them to work towards it.
> > Not enough people care yet.
> Well said Peter! From my own experiences I couldn't agree more. May I steer
> this discussion onto a related topic : http://www.isitopendata.org/
> I want to encourage data in my community to be explicitly and properly
> licenced in an 'as-open-as-possible' way.
> To this end, I made my first foray in to IsItOpenData enquiries:
> http://www.isitopendata.org/enquiry/view/6841b8b2-8fc8-4165-8ac4-6f699a68e3ab/
> <http://www.isitopendata.org/enquiry/view/6841b8b2-8fc8-4165-8ac4-6f699a68e3ab/>It's
> been rather a long time now, and I still have had no reply. What do you
> think I should do next? I'm actually going on a PaleoDB training course
> later this month. John Alroy himself won't be there but people only slightly
> lower down the chain-of-command will...
> Any tips?

This is all down to people concerns. Unlike WhatDoTheyKnow? where the organs
have to reply within 20 working days, there is no compulsion in IIOD. A lack
of response gives no indication of anything. It could be:

* I'm really interested in replying but haven't had the time and it's a
* I didn't read the email
* I am opposed to Open Access, and Open anythingelse because ...
   ... Open anything is junk quality. The ACS, Elsevier and others ran the
PRISM project to discredit Open Access. Many people unfortunately assume
that Open=> junk.
   ... the proponents are unrealistic do-gooders who make life difficult
   ... Open ABCD stops me making money from it
   ... I don't have time to worry about this (next grant, next Nature paper,
   ... if I make my data Open then others might use it
* If I don't reply ("mumble") then it makes life harder for the Open data
hippies and buys me time

There's nothing formal that can be done. There's lots of informal stuff like
 * showing the benefits of Open Data
 * working with funders (this is probably the strongest pressure group -
they want data to be Open).
 * trying to collect known supporters together.

There's a strong awareness now of the issue since research funders are
mandating Data management plans. You've seen the friction involved in things
like tree-ring data? It's been decided that the data must be released as
part of FOI. (There are lots of caveats). It's a political judgment as to
whether it's worth creating open confrontation or trying ot get orgs to
change. I am fairly strong publicly but haven't chained myslef to railings
yet. But I can afford to be; I wouldn't urge a young scientist to confront
the system but I would support them completely if they were determined to.

In your case it sounds like talking to as many people in the community as
possible is a good first step. Believe in the absolute mission but make your
own mind up about the day-to-day and year-to-year strategy. It may be that
creating a bottom-up volunteer community of fossil data people and data is
practicable. That's what Steve Coast did for OSM and what we are doing in
bibliography. And what I am doing in crystallography. And hopefully in

Energy and commitment are very valuable and in considerable supply!

> Ross

Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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