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Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Unlocking the full value of scientific data

Formal presentation of the report "Riding the Wave: How Europe can gain from the raising tide of scientific data

Brussels, 6th October 2010

Thank you, Professor John Wood, for your presentation and for this impressive report.

As your say in your report, we are all experiencing the "rising tide of information" today. This growth of scientific data gives us an ever-growing power to understand our world and address key societal challenges. It provides for a radically new perspective on the way science is conducted.

Science has always been based on exchange of information and intense interactions between researchers. Today, thanks to the availability of global communication networks, we profit from truly global and massive scientific collaborations.

Your presentation was not limited to the aspects of access, storage and preservation of the exponentially increasing volume of scientific data. While these are difficult challenges in their own right, I am glad that your vision goes beyond that. You say we should make scientific data available as an open infrastructure of a new kind on which science, entrepreneurship, civic initiative and government can thrive.

This idea captures the spirit of science and progress – I am delighted to give it my support. Scientific data has the power to transform our lives for the better – it is too valuable to be locked away.

Let me say also that this vision comes at the right time! Our ICT entrepreneurs and the younger generations have always lived in a world where information flows openly; a world where media are two-way and participative. Our approach to data, and especially public research, should drive this transformation. We cannot afford to keep data closed away.

By the way, I also see this as a basic fairness issue because the public should have access to data that has been paid for by taxpayers' money.

Delivering these changes is not easy. We will need to build supporting infrastructure and international governance. We will also have to look carefully at financial sustainability and motivate researchers to make available their data for maximum re-use.

To this end, the EU's Digital Agenda for Europe has called for the development of research infrastructures and e-Infrastructures, including for scientific data. As you have highlighted, data itself is becoming a fundamental infrastructure.

Before concluding, I would like to bring to your attention two essential points:

  • First, as we get closer to FP8 (Framework Programme 8), we all should strive to make real progress towards open access to the scientific data produced within the EU's framework programme research projects.

  • Second, we need to ensure that every future project funded by the EU has a clear plan on how to manage the data it generates. Such plans should foster openness and economies of scale, so that data can be re-used many times rather than duplicated.

In 2011 I will table a communication on scientific information. My goal is to raise awareness of the opportunities represented by scientific data as well as setting out a plan for future developments. It is clear that this report of the High-Level Group on Scientific Data will be an invaluable input for this communication and our broader research infrastructure policies.

So thank you for this significant step forward. With this I feel we are well on the way to unlocking the full value of scientific data.

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