Yale plans opens access to millions of images

"Turn your Copper into Silver now before your Eyes"

"Turn your Copper into Silver now before your Eyes"

In an exciting addition to open collections in the humanities, Yale has opened access to over 250,000 images from its collection and plans of opening millions more.

From the release:

“The goal of the new policy is to make high quality digital images of Yale’s vast cultural heritage collections in the public domain openly and freely available.”

“Scholars, artists and other individuals around the world will enjoy free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new “Open Access” policy that the University announced today. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through a newly developed collective catalog.”

This seems to be based on access to digital representations of work  that are already in the public domain, rather than automatic open access to newly created materials from Yale, but given the subject matter, this is still an enormous amount of material.

This is a significant move because of the sheer scale of Yale’s collections and the comprehensive nature of the policy. This clearly positions the institution in a position which sees open access as the natural approach to its collections, rather than seeing open access as applying to specific collections which are somehow different.

Having said this, looking through the service, the re-use rights for material are not actually specified beyond being “open access”, and:

“The ability to publish images directly from our online catalogues without charge will encourage the increased use of our collections for scholarship, a benefit to which we look forward with the greatest excitement.”

. . . so I trust I am permitted to use the picture from the collection as the header to this post: it illustrates an eighteenth century London street cry:  “Turn your Copper into Silver now before your Eyes” . . .

Bill

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I can see your repository from up here . . .

Satellite Image

The UK is chairing the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters for six months, with responsibility for strategy and policy. The Charter coordinates the use of  satellite images that can be used during natural emergencies and the UK’s chairmanship has just made an interesting contribution to the wider open agenda. From the Press Release:

“The UK has gained agreement on providing universal access to satellite images during natural emergencies, at its first meeting after taking over as Chair of the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters. This will enable any country to draw upon the data provided by the Charter, an agreement that coordinates space agencies worldwide in gathering vital satellite images of disaster-stricken regions – providing them to civil protection authorities to inform their response efforts and save lives.”

This is a good example of the way that the open agenda is spreading across public access to different data sources. It is easy to get the impression from some critics in the publishing industry that open access to research outputs and research data is a movement which is simply upsetting to, and restricted to, academic publishing. As academics and external observers know, it is far broader than this. Academic research communication systems have to react to this broader movement, as much as see it as an internal development.

Having said all that, the image accompanying this posting had to be from the Flickr collection of  NASA Goddard, not Spacegovuk’s photostream on Flickr, where all of the images are copyright and all rights reserved! 🙂

Bill

Royal Society to investigate open science

Open Science has been on my mind recently – so when I heard it mentioned on the radio as I was waking up this morning, at first I thought I might be dreaming! But no – it was indeed Prof Geoffrey Boulton talking about a working group set up by the Royal Society to look at “Science as a Public Enterprise”, which he’ll be chairing.

Prof Boulton said that scientists must find new ways of engaging with people and making science more open – so scientists’ data should be quickly and easily available both to other scientists and in the public domain. This is good news for those of us interested in opening access to the results of research. The Royal Society is here putting its weight behind “a presumption in favour of data sharing” .  Will this help change the hearts and minds of scientists who up to now have been sceptical about the open agenda?

The working group is calling for evidence from scientists, government bodies, business and industry and the general public. It will be interesting to see its recommendations.

The RCS is working with consultant Sarah Currier on our own study of open science and citizen science and we too should like to hear the views of anyone interested in this development in scientific communication.

EPSRC support for Open Data

EPSRC has implemented a policy framework from 1st May that directly speaks to the development of Open Data systems. The announcement highlights two principles:

” . . . firstly, that publicly funded research data should generally be made as widely and freely available as possible in a timely and responsible manner; and, secondly, that the research process should not be damaged by the inappropriate release of such data.”

There are seven key principles in all, which includes a phrase relating to impact:

“Sharing research data is an important contributor to the impact of publicly funded research . . . ”

Organisations have as much a part to play as the individual researcher. The EPSRC expects that:

“Research organisations will ensure that appropriately structured metadata describing the research data they hold is published (normally within 12 months of the data being generated) and made freely accessible on the internet; in each case the metadata must be sufficient to allow others to understand what research data exists, why, when and how it was generated, and how to access it. . .  ”

Other expectations address an organisation’s responsibilities for digital curation, security and resourcing.

This goes to support the development of the more general Open Scholarship agenda and is another reminder that Open Access is about far more than a digital free-to-use library of off-prints.  Will the other research councils follow suit?

Bill

Links between open data

In another move towards more open exploration of university data, Southampton University have recently released a site which allows experiment and mashup with some of their administrative data.  This follows Tim Berners-Lee’s ideas on Linked Data and presents RDF structured data. There is an interesting piece from The Register IT-blog on the initiative which links the approach to work with the Ordnance Survey.

This takes its place in a range of current experiments and acts as one pole of an approach using structured data. The other pole is exemplified by the previously reported competition to use the heterogeneous collection of information available through Mendeley. The tension between usage of large sets of information with basic (if any) metadata and far smaller restricted sets with structure that allows wider experiment exists as a basic question in information management. The debate will doubtless continue.

Bill

D-Lib Data Issue and GetTheData.org

If you are trying to keep up on issues and initiatives related to Open Data you might want to check out the following:

1.   D-Lib Magazine’s January/February 2011 issue. It’s all about data. Topics include the Dataverse Network, the Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE), Earth System Science Data (ESSD), research data quality, the trustworthiness of data centres, the relationship between publications and data, and metadata for data set citation.

2.   A recent Open Knowledge Foundation blog post. Written by Tony Hirst, this post describes the new site GetTheData.org. From the site :

GetTheData is a Q&A site where you can ask your data related questions, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • where to find data relating to a particular issue;
  • how to query Linked Data sources to get just the data set you require;
  • what tools to use to explore a data set in a visual way;
  • how to cleanse data or get it into a format you can work with using third party visualisation or analysis tools.

Worth checking out.

Altruism is not Enough

Another interesting evening event organised by RIN last week in the series Research Information in Transition looked at the topics of data handling and data sharing.

I was not surprised to see that many of the issues we’ve identified as having a bearing on the take-up of Green/Gold open access also raised their heads in connection with data.

Andrew Young from Liverpool John Moores University talked about the challenges of persuading researchers to put their data into an institutional repository even when it was a conditionof their grant. Policies, systems and guidance may all be in place but further incentives seem to be needed.

Carole Goble from Manchester University described designing systems to encourage the sharing of data between scientists working on the SysMO (Systems Biology of Microorganisms) project. Some were reluctant to share – among other reasons, becasue data sharing isn’t recognised by the academic reward system.

Kevin Ashley, Director of the Digital Curation Centre, addressed similar issues, stressing the need for interaction between policies and behaviours: policies on their own don’t have enough effect.

Our discussions with researchers about open access are leading us to reach the same conclusion. So the challenge for policy makers and funders is to enmesh the open sharing of research results with the attainment of academic prestige, promotion and kudos. Altruism is not enough.

Read more about managing and sharing data in the Scholarly Communications Action Handbook.