Open Data – The Missing Link?

March 12, 2012

Ken Chad positions Discovery in the context of global and national thinking

In March 2011 the first issue of Google’s Think Quarterly[1] online magazine was dedicated to data. Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Southampton writes that one of the key responses to the 21st century demand for information is open data. The website and the influence of Shadbolt alongside Sir Tim Berners-Lee has positioned UK government as one of the leaders in open data[2].

However, despite the increased recognition of Shadbolt’s argument that “open data provides a platform on which innovation and value can flourish”, more needs to be done. This is certainly the case with libraries, museums and archives. Discovery Chair, Prof. David Baker, emhasises that by opening up more data for reuse “we can better serve UK educators and researchers to excel in their work by increasing access to, and visibility of, relevant content”.

If we are to achieve the ambition of the Discovery initiative for a sustainable ‘metadata ecology’, two broad issues need to be addressed. The first is around making a clear business case. Key figures like Shadbolt and Berners-Lee have done much to clarify and advocate the broader business case especially for government data. However more remains to be done to help heads of libraries, museums and archives articulate the particular business case for their organisations – as Discovery is undertaking to do.

Secondly, a commitment to licensing open metadata will be vital. It is encouraging that this is central to a number of current projects in libraries, museums and archives with the British Library[3] amongst those leading the way. At the same time Discovery is providing case studies and tools such as the Open Bibliographic Data Guide to support managers, practitioners and developers.


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