• Open access to science contributes to innovation and economic growth.
• Scientific advances, both substantive and methodological, are now data intensive and require open access to scientific data.
• The cost of research is reduced. This is very important right now in most countries, because there is often less money available for research. To keep science alive and vital, open access to data is a real advantage.
Limiting access to data—the other side of that coin—results in higher research costs, lost opportunities, barriers to innovation, less less-effective scientific cooperation, suboptimal quality of the data (since no one is working with them and cannot provide corrections to them), and a widening gap between the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and the developing countries.
In pushing for open access to data, however, we must acknowledge that there are some legitimate reasons for limiting access to public data:
• National security and public safety.
• Personal privacy and confidentiality, which are protected in many countries.
• Proprietary rights of private-sector parties. No one is talking about forcing open access on research that a company has done in order to advance its product.
Internationally, there have been a number of activities that have advanced open access over the past 50 or 60 years. A big impetus to open access to data was the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in the 1950s, a massive global-scale data-collection effort that stressed open access to the scientific data collected under the aegis of the IGY. One of the results of the IGY was that the International Council for Science (ICSU) formed the World Data Centers. In order to become a World Data Center, a center had to agree that it would provide scientific data to whoever asked. That does not seem to be required anymore, but it was at the time, particularly because a major goal was to make sure that data were available both to scientists in the West and scientists in the Soviet bloc. The Iron Curtain divided scientists as well as politicians, and the World Data Centers were meant to overcome the limits to exchange of data among scientists.
When the Group on Earth Observations formed the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) in 2005, it established the following open data principles:
• There will be full and open exchange of data, metadata, and products shared within GEOSS, recognizing relevant international instruments and national policies and legislation.
• All shared data, metadata, and products will be made available with minimum time delay and at minimum cost.
• All shared data, metadata, and products being free of charge or no more than cost of reproduction will be encouraged for research and education.
In 2007, the OECD made a strong stand on behalf of open data access, recommending that data policies show openness, flexibility, transparency, legal conformity with existing laws, protection of intellectual property, formal responsibility for the data, professionalism, interoperability, data quality, data security, data efficiency, accountability, and sustainability.
There has been gradual movement toward even more openness in data in the United States as well. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration proposed a policy of commercialization of all data that were collected