Celebrating a Year of Open Data

2013 has been a really big year for open data. In February, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a new mandate for open access to peer-reviewed outcomes of federally-funded research, including publications and data. The various agencies have been exploring how they will enact this new policy, and have welcomed input from the public.

Beyond these developments on the federal level, many institutions have shifted gears to promote the free exchange of data. New developments in archaeology include the adoption of a data management policy by the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, and special panel discussions relating to open access and publishing at the upcoming AIA and SAA meetings. On a broader scale, the Nature Publishing Group recently announced Scientific Data a new, open access, publication for descriptions datasets (they also provide an excellent video about data publishing). The tragic loss of open access advocate Aaron Swartz in January may well have galvanized a move toward more openness over the course of the year. His case cast a spotlight on the misalignment of scholarship and the exchange of ideas with the laws governing copyright and computer networks. His loss underscored some of the ethical stakes associated with access to knowledge.

We at Open Context have been vocal advocates for open data publishing for some time now. In short, we believe that open data publishing not only makes research more effective, but it better aligns archaeology with the public spirit. We’ve been promoting these perspectives through publications and presentations (see some examples here and here). Our most recent call for open access to research content appeared in The SAA Archaeological Record this fall (the article is available Open Access from SAA). This year also saw a White House honor for Open Context’s Program Director Eric Kansa as a Champion of Change for his contributions to Open Science (see the NEH announcement).

We’re also striving to practice what we preach. Open Context published 18 projects this year. Fourteen of these are already cited in conventional publications. A few examples:

As the ecosystem of open data grows, the various participants are finding innovative ways of leveraging the power of the Web. For instance, online publications like Internet Archaeology and the Journal of Open Archaeology Data are establishing extensive networks of partners to archive data that links to their publications. Open Context is listed by both services as a recommended system to host datasets related to their publications. The direction this is going is making sure the linking is two ways—a link from the dataset to the paper, and a link from the paper back to the dataset.

We are delighted to see data publishing catching on and look forward to what 2014 will bring!