Speech: Opening up Scientific Data
European Commission - SPEECH/13/236 18/03/2013
Other available languages: none
Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Opening up Scientific Data
Launch of the Research Data Alliance/Stockholm
18 March 2013
I am very happy to be with you today, here in the EU, to launch the global Research Data Alliance.
Scientists have always sought new ways to share. And they've always been in the vanguard using new technologies to help them do that better.
Scientists developed the internet, for example. Its forerunner, the Computer Science Network of the eighties, was funded by the National Science Foundation; then scientists at CERN developed the worldwide web. Now it's everywhere: available to scientists and laymen, the greatest tool for sharing information ever invented.
It's no wonder that scientists are in the lead on those new tools. Because only when results and evidence are shared, can the community examine and compare, discard and learn. That's the philosophy behind the learned society and the scientific journal. There can be no modern science without sharing. Now we need to also make the most use of new, digital tools.
Because those tools can take us into a new era: the era of open science. I'm in no doubt we are entering that phase: and that the impact will be good for citizens, good for scientists and good for society.
Whether it's scientific results, the data they are based on, the software used for analysis, or the education resources that help us teach and learn, being more open can help, transforming every discipline from astronomy to zoology, and making our lives better.
There's three points I want to make today.
First, the EU is supporting open science. Because I know that we can advance these goals through our policies and platforms. And because I know that our society and our future are best served through science that is faster, better and more open.
The EU has long invested in research and innovation. Now, even in these difficult times, EU leaders have agreed to significantly increase that investment. It's the right thing to do: faced with weak growth, we must all the more focus on future growth, and all the more ensure the tools and knowledge that can make us more productive.
But taxpayers who are paying for that research will want to see something back. Directly – through open access to results and data. And indirectly – through making science work better for all of us.
That's why we will require open access to all publications stemming from EU-funded research. That's why we will progressively open access to the research data, too. And why we're asking national funding bodies to do the same.
More specifically, we are investing in the iCordi project: a leading global forum to chart, demonstrate and drive convergence between emerging data infrastructures. And of course iCordi also supports this Alliance.
All in all, we are putting openness at the heart of EU research and innovation funding.
Second, while we can offer support from the EU, the tools to make science more open and effective don't lie with us: they lie in your hands, with scientists themselves. This revolution offers great new opportunities: for best results, they should not be imposed from outside, but with the ownership and collaboration of the scientific community itself.
That's why I'm delighted at how you're building this Alliance. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a great model to use. A model for working together, building a large community and using its expertise. A model to find consensus, find a common language, and make huge progress. A model with the internet itself as track-record – and highly consistent with the values of the scientific community.
My third point is that this needs to have a global dimension. The further our vision spreads, the greater will be the benefits. And my vision spreads well beyond the EU's borders.
I know international partners feel the same. I welcome the recent White House announcement on open access: it's good for citizens, good for society, and good for science.
And in Australia, too, I know that key Research Councils are embracing Open Access. While the Government itself has endorsed the principle of wide access to public research.
I welcome that we are moving in the same direction. We are propelled by the same, inevitable currents of change. And I look forward to continuing to work on this with the US, Australia, and others.
One year ago in Rome, I announced that we were working with international partners on a global approach. So that the world's scientific resources could work together inter-operably, and be open to discovery.
And today we launch this international initiative, with the EU hand in hand with the USA and Australia. I am delighted to have this global coordination to define a global infrastructure.
Because by working together across countries and disciplines, we can make scientific progress broader, deeper, and more workable, catalysing new and unexpected solutions.
If knowledge is an unknown land, this infrastructure is not just the network to help us discover and explore it: in time it could come to shape and define it.
I am proud to welcome this today. It's the right change at the right time, with the right ambition. Acting on this impressive scale, you can advance research and scholarship.
We may not know exactly where that will take us. What exact new results we will find. After all, if you knew precisely what the outcome would be, it wouldn't be research! Those scientists who developed the internet didn't know where it would lead – nor did Newton when he went for a lie-down in his orchard. Science is filled with leaps of faith and journeys where you're not sure of the destination: this is no different. But I am confident the results will be amazing, because openness as a philosophy has never let us down so far.
As the statistician Professor Deming put it, "In God we trust, all others bring data". Let's build a home for that data – so everyone can bring it and use it – and let's surge forward to the next great discovery.