Open Data Day will take place on March 5, 2022. The day is organized annually by the Open Knowledge Foundation to promote Open Data around the world. It was created as an opportunity to emphasize the benefits of Open Data and encourage the adoption of Open Data policies in government, business and civil society. 

What is Open Data? According to the Open Data Handbook by the Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Data “…is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike”.  The Canadian government’s definition adds the aspects of structure and machine-readability: “Open data is defined as structured data that is machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions.”

Open Data Padlock Lock - Free vector graphic on Pixabay

What are possible benefits of Open Data? First and foremost, the concept of Open Data is an integral part of the Open Scholarship ecosystem. Research data that is openly accessible contributes to innovation, transparency and reproducibility in science. But the benefits of Open Data are not limited to academia. Similarly, public administration information, if made freely accessible in compliance with open standards, is contributing to a more transparent and accountable governance and thus to a potentially more equitable society. And ultimately, it is open data generated in citizen science projects that feeds back into both academic and societal discourse.

What are Indigenous perspectives on Open Data? It must be understood that the ideas behind Open Data are not equally beneficial and relevant for all communities. The needs of Indigenous Peoples for autonomy and control over Indigenous data and data related to Indigenous Knowledges, as reflected in the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance, may be opposed to the principles of Open Data. It is the responsibility of the global Open Scholarship community to respectfully acknowledge that fact and attempt to reconcile these principles in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Data sovereignty advocates. To learn more about the history and principles of Indigenous Data sovereignty, particularly in the lands now known as Canada, see the First Nations Principles of OCAP and chapter 9 of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2 2018) on Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada.

Which sources for Open Data do exist? There are numerous initiatives and resources around Open Data in academic research, citizen science, and public administration. For example, the ongoing COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group is curating an extensive dataset on COVID-19 in Canada. A large amount of geographic data is freely available in OpenStreetMap. A growing number of governing bodies is providing demographic and other statistical data.  And libraries, archives, and museums provide digitizations of their collections as well as metadata and also feed them into projects such as Wikidata, or the Internet Archive, bringing the concept of Linked Open Data to life.

Open Data – what role does it play in the UVic community? A wide range of stakeholders at University of Victoria are contributing to and making use of Open Data. UVic Libraries invites faculty, researchers, and students to deposit their scholarly data into UVic Dataverse, an institutional research data repository. The depositors are encouraged to make the data open, because the repository is an ideal environment for Open Data.
The Libraries also maintain several Libguides that address Open Data discovery, including on research, health and government data, business data, and geospatial data, as well as discipline specific guides.
Research projects like the Ocean Networks Canada are inviting scholars and the public to access their data, while explicitly committing to Canadian Open Data principles.
Other projects at UVic that touch on the topic of Open Data include the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ECTL), which curates an overview on the topic and hosts the Open Scholarship Policy Observatory, that – among others – lists Open Data policies.