So, what is “Open Data”? The idea behind open data is that certain data should be freely available to everyone. No copyright, no patents, no licenses, no fees for its use, reuse, or redistribution. Open data focuses on non-text material like maps, genomes, scientific and mathematical formulas, chemical compounds. Numbers instead of words.
Here in the United States we are fortunate enough to have open data when it comes to data collected by the government, like the Census. The U.S. government also funds a lot of research through such agencies as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Because taxpayer money pays for this research, some feel that the data generated should be made available to the public too. The Open Data Initiative moves towards this goal. The NSF has required a data management plan with all of its grant applications since January 2011. This plan asks researchers how they plan to preserve their data and make it available to others.
Open data benefits everyone. Sharing data reduces the redundancy in time and money of people collecting the same data. More time can be spent using the data, solving problems, discovering new things. Having access to data also increases people’s data literacy- the ability to access, assess, manipulate, and summarize data. Open data in regards to government-funded research also gives us one more layer of transparency when it comes to how our tax dollars are being spent and we become better informed citizens.