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Motivating the release of government data

2011 November 4
by Monica Duke

In the process of tying up loose ends for the SageCite project, I’ve unearthed three draft blog postings, all of which were related to other blog posts or publications which comment on data sharing, re-use or citation – three key themes for the SageCite project.  All of them are still very relevant despite the time that has passed since I first came across them, so I’ve decided to let them see the light of day.

The first was a blog post over on Jeni Tennison’s blog. Jeni was very active in efforts to release UK government data as open linked data and in this post from September 2010 she reflected on what it would take to ensure the public sector would ‘publish reusable data in the long term’.  It struck me that this quote from Jeni’s post about releasing government data as open data could apply to the publishing of scientific research data (replace ‘public sector’ with ‘research sector’ or ‘academic’).  This is what Jeni had to say about the ease of releasing government data, and reward systems:

To do that, data publication needs to be sustainable. It needs to be embedded within the day-to-day activity of the public sector, something that seems as natural as the generation of PDF reports seems today. It also needs to be useful. It needs to be easy for anyone to understand and reuse the data, with minimal effort. It cannot be the case, long term, that you need to be an expert hacker to reuse government data.   …….

To get there, we need to work towards a virtuous cycle in which the public sector is rewarded for publishing useful data well. The reward may come from financial savings, from increasing data quality, from better delivery of its remit, or simply from kudos. It doesn’t matter how, but there needs to be some reward, or it just won’t happen.

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