International Data Week
International Data Week was held in Denver during the week of September 11, 2016. A triumvirate of three organizations including the International Council for Science Committee on Data for Science and Technology, the Research Data Alliance, and the International Council for Science World Data System helped create a week-long event. Two days of academic sessions highlighted papers from around the globe. These papers were from scientists publishing papers on the current status of data in research and the opportunities around developing a sustainable data ecosystem in the SciDataCon 2016 ”Advancing the Frontiers of Data in Research”. The following day’s International Data Forum focused on “Mobilizing the Digital Revolution: from Big Data to Open Data”. This included four panel discussions. These discussions highlighted the caveats to a truly open data climate. Also, avoiding repeats of the mistakes that led to scientific publication access being a proprietary endeavor.
A major theme from all of the speakers was how studies must be repeatable. Also, open data must be accompanied by open methodologies to ensure that scientific claims made in research can be validated through replication of the studies producing the results. Many also did not believe open data from academic research was a prerequisite for use of Open Software. For some, it was clear that the world of Open Source Software was too daunting. However, the more legitimate concerns circulated around the question of longevity. Also, the maintenance of relying on a developer community instead of a paid staff keeping it operational through future iterations. The argument to the contrary is proprietary software limits the user base to those with resources to access the tools. Thus, the question remains – is open software essential to open data science?
Data Publishing and Use Standards
The final three days of the week highlights the true value of the event. Wherein the Research Data Alliance’s 8th Plenary invited participants to do more than just talk in breakout groups led by committees that result in action items. It was very telling that the turnout for the “Data Discovery Interest Group” was standing room only, as the issue very high on the minds of researchers is the discoverability of data. In this planning session, three presenters highlighted tools for current interoperability of data catalogs. Also, 23 possible focus topics identified as target action items for members of the group. From there, they develop goals and tasks to improve data discoverability.
Other sessions of note included a working group on Quality of Life Indicators and the need for standardization of metrics across geographies, a Geospatial working group looking into the growing need for reliable open source software to advance the understanding that GeoData is really just data with geo, and finally an extended session for knowledge sharing and establishment of best practices to maximize the functionality of Hackathons.