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Board on Research Data and Information
Policy and Global Affairs
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Board on Research Data and Information
Policy and Global Affairs Division
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

The Value of Shared Access and Reuse of Publicly Funded Scientific Data

A Public Symposium
Board on Research Data and Information
National Academy of Sciences
20 F Street Conference Center
Conference Room A/B, 20 F Street NW
Washington, DC
December 1, 2010, 2:00-4:20 p.m.
The scientific community generates increasingly vast amounts of publicly funded digital data and information, and disseminates much of it online. The public investment in the production and management of such data resources in the United States alone is estimated to be several billions of dollars. Research communities within the United States and throughout the world have adopted different policies regarding whether or not to require publication of publicly funded data, how the research data and information created by individuals and projects are to be made available, and the terms under which that material may be reused by other parties. At the same time, there appears to be a broad recognition in both the public and private sectors of the importance of broad access to and reuse of publicly funded scientific data, not only for other researchers, but for the economy and society at large. The intangible social benefits of different types of scientific data are harder to measure, but they also can be very significant. They include educational, research, good-governance, and various other benefits that contribute directly and indirectly to improvement of the public welfare.
At the same time, there are many legitimate reasons for not disclosing scientific data publicly – among them, the need to protect national security and law enforcement, personal privacy, proprietary interests, and confidentiality. Furthermore, many data sets are not sufficiently documented or organized, or of good enough quality, to make them useful to others. Questions about how to properly balance these competing interests and deficiencies in the preparation, access, and reuse of datasets remain unresolved, but will be addressed in the future work of the Board and elsewhere.
Despite the huge public investments in generating and managing publicly funded data, and the even larger estimated downstream spillover effects of making it available, surprisingly little is known about the costs and benefits of open access and reuse on downstream research for our information society, and the knowledge economy. Many government agencies, academic organizations, and the research community generally are beginning to look into these issues in more depth.
This public symposium will look at some of the research, economic, and social benefits that can be derived from providing online access to publicly-funded scientific data, as well as how such benefits can be evaluated, with a view to adding to that inquiry. The event will include presentations on the scientific data sharing and reuse policies of the federal government; compelling examples of the value of free online access and unfettered reuse of data; methods of assessing the value and effects of research, the economy, and society; and comments by Board members. The symposium is open to the public, but advance registration is requested (contact: Cheryl Levey, or call 202-334-1531).
Symposium Program
2:00 p.m.        Opening remarks by the Board Chair
                         Michael Lesk
                         Rutgers University
                         .WMV file (10 MB)
                         Paul F. Uhlir
                         National Research Council 
                        .WMV file (154 MB)
2:30                Benefits of data sharing and reuse in policyr esearch: case studies in environmental sciences
                        Rod Atkinson and Jan Johansson, Congressional Research Service
                        Neil S. Buckholtz
                        National Institute on Aging, NIH
                        .WMV file (111 MB)
3:10                Evaluating the effects of federal data programs       
                        Richard L. Bernknopf 
                        U.S. Geological Survey
                        .WMV file (145 MB)
3:50                 Michael Carroll
                         Washington School of Law, American University
                         .WMV file (94 MB)
4:00                 Paul David
                         Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford University
                         .WMV file (197 MB)
4:10                 Stevan Harnad
                         Université du Québec à Montreal & University of Southampton
                         Slides, Text, .WMV file (12 MB)
4:15                 Concluding observations by Symposium Chair, Michael Lesk 
4:20                 Panel Discussion
                         .WMV file (275 MB)
5:00                End of Symposium