Friday, September 14, 2007

New Zealand Science and Open Access

In "An Information Revolution", David Penman discusses Open Access and Open Data (especially as applied to government-funded research) in general, and more specifically as applied to New Zealand science and scientists. While there is some good news:
"The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is now reviewing its data policy and moving towards the norm for the OECD – greater open access for publicly-funded data. Rather than the research provider deciding on access, all information is openly and freely available unless restrictions such as national security, environmental damage (eg, the GPS co-ordinates of threatened species), or clear commercial disadvantage can be justified."

He has some blunt - and appropriate - words for NZ scientists:
Our researchers will also have to change. No longer can they sit with filing cabinets full of data waiting for the definitive experiment or the life time monograph. Publish quickly in electronic media, make your data and models freely available and get rewards from both publishing and showing that your data are being used by others – this should become the norm.
He also has an interesting view of the future of libraries, one that many libraries would be unwise to ignore:
Libraries are becoming available to all without leaving your home, information on your environment will become openly and freely available and communities will be able to use the internet to take more control of our institutions – a new style of democracy will emerge.
These comments are reminiscent of the meeting that was held in Wellington in 2003, described in Peter Davis' report "Saving and sharing research data: issues of policy and practice" where the relative vacuum in this area was also pointed-out:
"If New Zealand is to assess this international science trend and respond to it, a much more united scientific response is required, and also a “whole of government” approach. Not only the traditional science agencies, but also the National Library, Statistics New Zealand, even local government, all may need to contribute in some way and assist with a consensual and comprehensive solution."
Fortunately, there are other examples where New Zealand is moving ahead in this area: the recent (July 2007) announcement of a free data policy by the New Zealand National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Hopefully more like this will follow....


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