The values of open data

Rob Inkpen, Ritienne Gauci, Andy Gibson

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The values of open data in terms of accessibility, research scrutiny and data transparency are important ethical values to which all scientists should aspire. As part of the drive for open science in general, the development of open data and, associated with it, open access, are key characteristics. Although these may be the key drivers for open data in science, the potential to inform policies and support non‐academic sectors are also high on the political agenda for geographical science, placing the issue of ‘open data’ firmly within the context of the neoliberalisation of universities and academics. Open data becomes a common resource from which other researchers, business and government can extract value. This paper addresses the contexts in which open data is being encouraged and identifies concerns that these policies may need to be sensitive to such as existing and emerging power relations within which data is produced and consumed. Viewing open data in this context illuminates some potential ethical issues that the benign ideal of open data could produce. We explore the importance of viewing research and research outputs within the dimensions of a dynamic set of power relationships, which often go unnoticed by practitioners. This suggests the debate over open data needs to be sensitive to the contexts within which researchers work and implicitly emphasize the key role that data, its production and its sharing, plays in these relationships.By thinking about the different values of ‘data’ defined by these relations, it is possible to untangle how the seemingly unquestionable drive to open data may pose problems for some researchers. It is suggested, however, that some of these potential issues could be creatively used to address issues of unequal power relations and so enable a greater and mutually rewarding flow of open data between researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date10 Nov 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 10 Nov 2020


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