Magazine article Online

Libraries in the Converging Worlds of Open Data, E-Research, and Web 2.0

Magazine article Online

Libraries in the Converging Worlds of Open Data, E-Research, and Web 2.0

Article excerpt

INFORMATION and communication technologies (ICT) are transforming the way academic researchers work. The new forms of research enabled by the latest technologies bring about collaboration among researchers in different locations, institutions, and even disciplines. These new collaborations have two key features--the prodigious use and production of data. This data-centric research manifests itself in such concepts as e-science, cyberinfrastructure, or e-research.

In order to make sense of the converging data-related initiatives, trends, and technologies, the DISC-UK (Data Information Specialists Committee) DataShare project aims to occupy a key position in bringing research libraries into the field of data curation, while supporting data management and e-research activities via open access institutional repositories and Web 2.0 technologies.

Recent research carried out by the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training ("Backing Australia's Ability--An Ongoing Commitment"; http://back has indicated that the amount of data generated in the next 5 years will surpass the volume of data ever created. A recent IDC White Paper ("The Expanding Digital Universe--A Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth through 2010"; tal_universe) predicted that between 2006 and 2010, the information added annually to the digital universe will increase more than sixfold--from 161 exabytes to 988 exabytes. Such statements alone have significant implications for data storage, publishing, confidentiality, preservation, and curation. Indeed, should these predictions be accurate, the practice of managing such a data deluge will acquire a more prominent role within the research lifecycle. Researchers, librarians, technologists, publishers, and policymakers will have to adapt their practices in order to deal with this new landscape.

Traditionally, these actors played discrete roles in the research lifecycle from an initial concept to the eventual published output. The open access movement advocates the introduction of such players into a virtual space while streamlining the whole research lifecycle and making available the institutional research output in open environments for those who need it or want to access it.


Over the last decade there has been much discussion about the merits of open standards, open source software, open access to scholarly publications, and most recently open data. This discussion has tended to highlight that such initiatives would lead to institutional and community benefits in terms of greater accessibility to and long-term preservation of research output and of cost savings.


The concept of open data was introduced in 2004 in the publication OECD Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding ( oecd/9/61/38500813.pdf).

Other august bodies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Chapter 3 of its Cyberstructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery (, the Research Information Network (RIN)'s Data Principles (, and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Office of Science and Innovation's Developing the UK's e-infrastructure for science and innovation ( .pdf) have all contributed to the dialogue advocating open access to research data. Academic research is primarily based on positive data or results, but there are practitioners who believe that data from failed experimentation or "dark data" ("Freeing the Dark Data of Failed Scientific Experiments," by Thomas Goetz, Wired, September 2007; science/discoveries/magazine/115-10/st_essay), which constitutes the vast majority of data produced in academic research, has equal validity in terms of knowledge and as such should also be made freely available. …

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