Could research data be lost soon?


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Nick Sinai, deputy chief technology officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaking at Data Innovation Day. Nick Sinai, deputy chief technology officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaking at Data Innovation Day. (Photo: Scott Maucione)

Open data released by government agencies is providing opportunities for entrepreneurs, allowing them to start businesses, grow their business and innovate in new ways. But when government research and development projects end, who is responsible for maintaining the data and keeping it accessible?

“Who pays the data bill?” asked Francine Berman, chair of Research Data Alliance, at Data Innovation Day in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Center for Data Innovation on Jan 23.

Open data has been estimated to make an impact of up to $3 trillion on the world economy, according to McKinsey and Co.

The value is not in the data itself, but in the application of the data by making it open to the public, according to Nick Sinai, deputy chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Open data is not an ends to itself,” Sinai said at the event. “It doesn’t teach your children or cure cancer. What’s exciting is the application.”

OSTP has required agencies to make federally funded research accessible to the public.

However, that research could be jeopardized by data blackouts unless the government comes up with a viable plan for digital research preservation, according to Berman.

Blackouts happen when data stops being maintained and is no longer available to the public.

“Up to this point, no one sector has stepped up to take on the problem alone and it is unrealistic to expect as much,” Berman said in an article she wrote for Science Magazine. “In the public sector, federal research and development agencies are unlikely to allocate enough resources to support all federally funded research data.”

There is no clear economic model to account for the digital preservation of some open data, according to Berman.

Though, some federal research does have specific funding for its future. The Protein Data Bank receives more than $6 million annually for its maintenance from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Energy Department’s Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics.

Berman’s organization suggests, in part, creating public incentives such as tax credits to entice private sector organizations to host the data.

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Agencies, data analytics, Data Innovation Day, Departments, Francine Berman, Government IT News, National Science Foundation (NSF), Nick Sinai, open data, open government, Research Data Alliance, Tech
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