Cucumbers, E-coli and open data: This unlikely trio appeared in a recent report entitled Science as an Open Enterprise, which looked into the issues surrounding the huge volumes of public domain data that are currently available, what will be required to exploit that data and how the principles of openness can be preserved. The 2011 outbreak of E. coli poisoning in Germany illustrated the changes in attitudes to sharing scientific research and data; within weeks of the outbreak, the genome of the bacteria was identified, and given the seriousness of the outbreak, the results were published on the Internet as soon as they were available.
The working group that produced the report, led by Geoffrey Boulton FRS FRSE (Regius Professor of Geology Emeritus, University of Edinburgh), set out to ‘identify the principles, opportunities and problems of sharing and disclosing scientific information’ and the measures required to create ‘.. a socially responsible open data regime’. The report goes on to state that curated open data is imperative for science and scientists to meet the increasing demands for public access to scientific data and to address some of the issues caused by the sheer volume of data that is now available for analysis. Sharing, compiling and integrating data sources will increasingly provide the basis for academic and scientific investigations.
Although the report focused on the academic and scientific communities, it touches on many of the issues we discuss in The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data – the value of open and unrestricted access to data, the importance of being able to establish the provenance of data, metadata, data curation to establish a measure of quality, citizen science, crowd sourcing, and what is good data? What may be considered good for one application may be wholly unsuitable for another. Vast amounts of public domain data are now available from a diverse range of sources – it is up to the individual or organisation to assess what is good enough for their requirements.