Federal agencies are creating new open access data resources, such as the Department of Energy’s Data Explorer program, an open access repository of data from DOE-sponsored research, and National Library of Medicine efforts such as GenBank, which is discussed elsewhere in the report.61
Some private research sponsors such as the Wellcome Trust have adopted open access data mandates for their grantees.62 As shown in Table 2-1, an increasing number of STM journals have adopted open access data mandates for authors.63
The advent of digital networks has enabled and stimulated global access to all types of digital information, including research data. Access to research data online means that researchers can use the data on a global basis, enhancing the universal progress of science to solve common problems and develop new knowledge. Both the benefits and the costs of unrestricted and restricted access are thus amplified in the international context.
The United States has been a leader in promoting openness to public sector information, as well as to publicly funded research data. Despite the trends in fields with commercial potential toward more proprietary treatment of academic research and the post-September 11 increase in national security restrictions on some sensitive data sources and types, the overall policy trend may be seen as moving toward greater access to both governmental and academic research data sources. The international dimensions of access to research data are being shaped both from the bottom up and the top down.
At the informal working level of the individual investigator, data are now shared across geographic boundaries as easily as they once were with the colleague next door. Countless international data exchanges are made among scientists on a daily basis, or through the posting of datasets on individual researchers’ Web sites.
At a more formal level, international research projects establish data-sharing protocols that reflect the norms of the fields in which they are operating. Some of the larger research or infrastructure programs are establishing data centers or federated networks for sharing of data resources. The first international network of such data centers, the World Data Center system, was formed following the 1957 International Geophysical Year to help bridge the gap in cooperation and data exchanges during the cold war.