Arguments for and against open data

The debate on Open Data is still evolving. The best open government applications seek to empower consumers, to help small businesses, or to create value in some other positive, constructive way. Open government data is only a way-point on the road to improving education, improving government, and building tools to solve other real world problems. While many arguments have been made categorically, the following discussion of arguments for and against open data highlights that these arguments often depend highly on the type of data and its potential uses. Arguments made on behalf of Open Data include the following: "Data belong to the human race". Typical examples are genomes, data on organisms, medical science, environmental data.[12] Public money was used to fund the work and so it should be universally available.[13] It was created by or at a government institution (this is common in US National Laboratories and government agencies) Facts cannot legally be copyrighted. Sponsors of research do not get full value unless the resulting data are freely available. Restrictions on data re-use create an anticommons. Data are required for the smooth process of running communal human activities and are an important enabler of socio-economic development (health care, education, economic productivity, etc).[14] In scientific research, the rate of discovery is accelerated by better access to data.[15] It is generally held that factual data cannot be copyrighted.[16] However, publishers frequently add copyright statements (often forbidding re-use) to scientific data accompanying publications. It may be unclear whether the factual data embedded in full text are part of the copyright. While the human abstraction of facts from paper publications is normally accepted as legal there is often an implied restriction on the mac ine extraction by robots. Unlike Open Access, where groups of publishers have stated their concerns, Open Data is normally challenged by individual institutions. Their arguments have been discussed less in public discourse and there are fewer quotes to rely on at this time. Arguments against making all data available as Open Data include the following: Government funding may not be used to duplicate or challenge the activities of the private sector (e.g. PubChem). Governments have to be accountable for the efficient use of taxpayer's money: If public funds are used to aggregate the data and if the data will bring commercial (private) benefits to only a small number of users, the users should reimburse governments for the cost of providing the data. The revenue earned by publishing data permits non-profit organisations to fund other activities (e.g. learned society publishing supports the society). The government gives specific legitimacy for certain organisations to recover costs (NIST in US, Ordnance Survey in UK). Privacy concerns may require that access to data is limited to specific users or to sub-sets of the data. Collecting, 'cleaning', managing and disseminating data are typically labour- and/or cost-intensive processes - whoever provides these services should receive fair remuneration for providing those services. Sponsors do not get full value unless their data is used appropriately - sometimes this requires quality management, dissemination and branding efforts that can best be achieved by charging fees to users. Often, targeted end-users cannot use the data without additional processing (analysis, apps etc.) - if anyone has access to the data, none may have an incentive to invest in the processing required to make data useful (Typical examples include biological, medical, and environmental data).