Archive for Open Data

UNESCO and Open Science

Posted in Open Access, Politics with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2022 by telescoper

Time to pass on news of an interesting development from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concerning Open Science. Here’s a little video to explain what it’s about:

A press release announcing the new recommendations begins thus:

The first international framework on open science was adopted by 193 countries attending UNESCO’s General Conference. By making science more transparent and more accessible, the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science will make science more equitable and inclusive. 

Through open science, scientists and engineers use open licenses to share their publications and data, software and even hardware more widely. Open science should, thus, enhance international scientific cooperation. 

Some 70% of scientific publications are locked behind paywalls. Over the past two years, however, this proportion has dropped to about 30% for publications on COVID-19 specifically. This shows that science can be more open. 

The framework document itself is here (21 pages). It’s a very general document, the strongest aspect of which is that it takes a broad view of open science. When I’ve talked and written about open access publishing I’ve always stressed that represents only one aspect of open science: there is a need to share data and analysis software too.

You can find an upbeat commentary on the new agreement by James Wilsdon here. Here’s a snippet:

At a time when ideologies opposed to universalism, multilateralism, and collaboration are gaining ground in many parts of the world—exacerbated by greed, corruption, and exploitation of common assets and resources—the scientific system is as vulnerable as it has always been to reflecting both the best and the worst of society’s wider tendencies.

Moves towards open research have gained significant ground over the past twenty years, but this progress remains fragile, under-resourced, and at times willfully or unintentionally blind to the fresh inequalities and pressures it can create—particularly for researchers and institutions in the global south.

For me, the greatest strengths of the UNESCO statement are its breadth and holism—unlike some declarations in this field, it speaks with an authentically international chorus of voices. It reasserts the need for cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary pluralism, and reminds us that openness is ultimately a means to more fundamental ends. The recommendation returns repeatedly to the importance of infrastructures and incentives, which need to be financed, sustained, and better aligned.

I couldn’t agree more!

Aaron Swartz and Open Access

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , on January 14, 2013 by telescoper

Just time for a very brief comment about the tragic death, apparently by his own hand,  of Aaron Swartz on Friday.  For those of you who haven’t followed the story, or perhaps don’t even know who he was, Aaron Swartz was an “internet activist” and leading champion of the open data movement. He was  a young man, only 26 when he died, who was prepared to fight for a cause he truly believed in. And to die for it.

Aaron Swartz was being prosecuted for alleged illegal downloads of scientific papers from the JSTOR system so he could make them available to the public. If convicted he would have faced a sentence of up to 35 years in prison.

Whether his prosecution was according to the letter of the law is a question I’ll leave for others to discuss. I’ll just say that it’s profoundly objectionable that the papers in the JSTOR are behind a paywall in the first place, just another example of how the academic publishing industry now actively stifles the free communication of scientific ideas and results that it purports to facilitate.

Aaron Swartz was a controversial character, but I know I’m not alone in thinking that his prosecution  was at the least heavy-handed and at the worst downright vindictive. Academics have been using the hashtag #PDFtribute on Twitter to pay tribute to his courage and to follow his example by posting their own research publicly free of charge.

Astronomers have making their results available in this way for years, through the arXiv.  We have also been paying through the nose for subscriptions to journals that do little more than duplicate the arXiv submission at such a prohibitive cost for access that the public can’t access them. In future we’re supposed to pay huge fees up front to academic publishing houses, to duplicate the arXiv in a different but equally pointless way. Pointless, that is, from any perspective other than their own profits.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve suggested a way to bypass traditional journals and achieve a form of publication that is both open to all and run at a minimal cost to authors. That will be going on-line in the not-too-distant future. One thing remaining to be resolved is the name for the new system. I still haven’t decided on that, but at least I now know to whose name it will be dedicated.

R.I.P. Aaron Swartz (1986-2013).