ers have been more specific to science and based on perceived political or economic sensitivities (e.g., domestic disease statistics or high-resolution geospatial data). The Chinese government, however, increasingly recognizes that many types of scientific data should be made openly available and usable, especially within the country, and not just for research purposes. As discussed in Chapter 2, the recent high-level focus by the Chinese government on the laws and policies regarding access to government-produced and government-funded academic research data has made this a very propitious time to examine these issues.
The case for change in access policies to governmental scientific data can be made at many levels, both internally and externally. The most effective approach is one based on the realization of national self-interest. A comparison with the policies of other countries can be effective as well. Particularly auspicious is the trend over the past decade by many developing countries to adopt Freedom of Information laws.2
Of course, there are legitimate public-policy reasons for limiting access to certain types of data, including appropriate national security restrictions, the protection of privacy and confidentiality, and the protection of private (as opposed to government) intellectual property rights. A related and very significant problem exists in getting scientists to contribute the data produced in the course of their research to public repositories. Barriers include the lack of an appropriate data center in which to deposit the data, no requirement by the funding source to deposit the data or to share them openly, insufficient recognition of the importance of data activities by the scientist’s institution, a lack of effective incentives or rewards to make the data available, the desire of researchers to sell their data at unreasonable prices despite very weak market estimates, inadequate funding to prepare the data sufficiently to make them usable by others, and a lack of training to do so.
With regard to scientific, technical, and medical journals, these too are mostly published by government or government-sponsored organizations in China. Because they are meant to be read by the research community, they do not have many of the same official constraints based on national security considerations as the underlying data. They are, however, still published almost exclusively in print form, so their open availability on digital networks raises new policy issues for the Chinese journal publishers and research establishment.
For more information, see, for example, http://www.freedominfo.org.