14 December 2018

“Developing Foundation Thinking for Future Data Policy” the latest workshop from the EFC Research Forum

‘Developing Foundation Thinking for Future Data Policy’ was the topic of discussion at the latest EFC Research Forum workshop, hosted by the Wellcome Trust in London on the 13th December 2018.

Participants to the workshop had the opportunity to hear the various perspectives on open data from policy-makers, institutional philanthropy organisations and researchers alike. Jean-Claude Burgelman from the Directorate General department for Research and Innovation gave an excellent overview of what the future infrastructure of open data could look like on a European level, especially through the European Open Science Cloud. Rolf Apweiler of the European Bioinformatics Institute informed the audience that a large part of why the field of bioinformatics has been so successful is down to access to open data from the outset, however further thinking is needed concerning the costs of open data, as the further it is developed, the higher the costs will become.

Nicola Perrin of the Wellcome Trust provided an in-depth view of how the organisation is developing their own policies around data and highlighted some of the challenges that can be encountered when working with open data, including difficulties in accessing high quality data sets, a lack of relevant skills in the work force, and fragile public confidence.

Roderic Guigó from the European Genome-Phenome Archive spoke of how true open data needs to utilise an open supporting infrastructure, including its software, while Stefano Bagnasco of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare developed this further. He stated that the architecture used to process data is even more important, as many operating systems are simply not available anymore. He aims to preserve the expensive data and to change it from in-depth documentation to preservation of the full environment, the software used and all its dependencies.

Lastly, Staffan I Lindberg, of the University of Gothenburg spoke of the unique challenges facing his research in the political sciences. For example if the identities of his interviewees were to be discovered by certain regimes, it could put them in serious danger.

So where does this leave philanthropy? There are varying degrees of open data policy development among different organisations in the sector and this meeting will no doubt not be the last the Research Forum hosts on the topic, as open data will only grow in importance in the future.