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UK University Researchers Must Make Data Available

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the time-to-pay-the-public-piper dept.

Government 352

Sara Chan writes "In a landmark ruling, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office has decided that researchers at a university must make all their data available to the public. The decision follows from a three-year battle by mathematician Douglas J. Keenan, who wants the data to do his own analysis on it. The university researchers have had the data for many years, and have published several papers using the data, but had refused to make the data available. The data in this case pertains to global warming, but the decision is believed to apply to any field: scientists at universities, which are all public in the UK, can now not claim data from publicly-funded research as their private property." There's more at the BBC, at Nature Climate Feedback, and at Keenan's site.

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352 comments

Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (5, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932404)

The public pays for gathering the data, the public should have access to that data. Kinda hard to find fault with that.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932518)

Now if only the same rules were applied to the fraudsters who promote evolutionism as it is to the fraudsters who promote global warming. Instead, the evolutionists will just hide behind the same bullshit arguments about the science being "settled" and we will have another 200 years of lies before the real truth comes out.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (0, Troll)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932616)

Glenn Beck, is that you?

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1, Insightful)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932660)

So responding to an AC is trolling? Someone needs to learn to moderate.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932938)

So responding to an AC is trolling?

By responding you give them what they want. I'm probably needing to take my own advice, but there's always a chance you actually were confused.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933326)

Actually, my initial comment was intended to be humorous, as the AC IMHO did a good job replicating the style of Mr. Beck. That Mr. Beck's way of speaking resembles The Almighty Shatner is a topic for another discussion :).

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (2, Informative)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932646)

Now if only the same rules were applied to the fraudsters who promote evolutionism...

Responding to a troll, I know... but if you really want the data on evolution (as opposed to foaming at the mouth and making up words to make yourself feel better about the mythology you chose that tells you that faith is when you blindly believe while being unable to show any data [Hebrews 11:1, bitches]): http://talkorigins.org/ [talkorigins.org]

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (0, Flamebait)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932742)

I imagine you propose the fraudsters taking your charitable church contributions and the fraudsters promoting the Republican party are exempt?

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932672)

The public pays for gathering the data, the public should have access to that data. Kinda hard to find fault with that.

I'm sure people with a dogmatic axe to grind will prove an annoying if minor fault. Creationists regularly mangle papers, taking quotes out of context and all. I can't imagine them being pacified by the messy data.

Oil companies and people who are dead set against thinking we -might- be changing the atmosphere will undoubtedly cherry pick out from the data, take things out of context from studies supporting climate change as a theory, and those people whose support of climate change is based more off of religion than science will do the same to studies that reach opposite conclusions. It will be extremely annoying to those of us who aren't convinced one way or the other, and rather than focus on good science, the media will focus on the new controversies this will spawn, making even fewer people care one way or the other.

I take a dim view of the public's ability to do anything useful with raw data, but I recognize I'm a bit of an elitist jerk. I think this might help a few cases of where one researcher gets opposite conclusions based on their own data, and this will allow direct comparison of the two data sets, and that's really all the good this will accomplish.

I'm not in the UK, nor am I a climatologist.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932858)

Creationists regularly mangle papers, taking quotes out of context and all.

Get ready for an onslaught of mangled data analysis, with data being taken out of context, the results published to some blog, and people making policy decision based on those blog postings.

the media will focus on the new controversies this will spawn

That's a guarantee. While in theory, I welcome this development, I suspect that in practice it will lead to more chaos than before. Not because the data is shoddy, but because some meteorologist will think that running a data set through an excel curve fitting algorithm is science.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31933156)

some meteorologist will think that running a data set through an excel curve fitting algorithm is science.

Nope -- it's only science if you adjust and filter the data first to make it match your truth. Resist releasing your data though, others may adjust and filter it other ways to make it match their truth. All science in the world of research driven by political agendas and egotistical arrogance.

Disclose, when in doubt disclose more. Anything less in scientific arenas where others can't repeat your experiments is just a symptom of fear, insecurity, and lack of confidence that your conclusions will stand up to the view and study of many brains (some better than yours, some worse).

Same argument for why FOSS is better - many eyes reviewing (in theory) and rapid fixes.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933268)

some meteorologist will think that running a data set through an excel curve fitting algorithm is science.

Nope -- it's only science if you adjust and filter the data first to make it match your truth.

I don't think that's what he was saying. He's saying this will lend itself to overly simplistic interpretations. Which is a good prediction in climatology, considering what people got out of "climategate."

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933612)

I don't think that's what he was saying. He's saying this will lend itself to overly simplistic interpretations. Which is a good prediction in climatology, considering what people got out of "climategate."

100% agree. But nothing in life is free. The hoi polloi will continue the mutual masturbation fest, but actual scientists with the right backgrounds to do something useful with the data will now have a much greater opportunity to do something useful with the data.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31933560)

Creationists regularly mangle papers, taking quotes out of context and all.

Would you *really* expect anything else? They do the same thing to the Bible, and they LIKE the Bible.

Personally, I'm not of the opinion that anyone who seriously believes the planet was instantly created 6000 years ago should be permitted to SPEAK in the debate on climate change. How can you argue about the interpretation of 20k year old ice core data with someone who believes that core was put there by THE DEVIL to confuse people?

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933644)

but I recognize I'm a bit of an elitist jerk.

These days, from what I can tell, all it takes to be an "elitist jerk" is going past the 12th grade.

So you are in very good company, my friend.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (2, Insightful)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932776)

Opening the data will encourage further research. The data will be available for others to use, instead of forcing constant duplication.

"Standing on the shoulders of giants" means to build on what has been done before. Hiding the source data shows just how "little" you are.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (4, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933056)

You know the multi-billion dollar LHC? Guess what they did their first physics on. Not finding new exotic particles, but proving that what we think we know so far still stands up. Duplicating data is exactly how things get proven and disproven. If Group A and Group B use exactly the same source data there's no possibility of Group B proving Group A's research wrong.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (5, Insightful)

thepike (1781582) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933286)

I totally agree. If people just start looking at each others data instead of verifying it, a lot of mistakes (or fraudulent data [wikipedia.org] ) will never be caught.

Also, I have to wonder what the timeline for releasing data is. My research is funded with government money (NIH and NSF) but it can take years to get enough data to make a worthwhile paper. If I have to release my data before then it will hurt my ability to publish papers without getting scooped. You could end up with a whole closet industry of people just data mining the data others have had to disclose. And, here's the main catch, if you don't have to release results you haven't yet reported on, the problem isn't solved at all because I could just choose to "not yet publish" any results that don't agree with what I want to say. Nothing says I ever have to publish results I get, so why wouldn't I just sit on them?

Not that sitting on data just because it doesn't agree is a good thing, but it happens. And plenty of good data goes unpublished (experiments fail, uninteresting results happen, journals don't publish negative results very often etc) so what about that data? Overall this law isn't going to help anything, and will just cause issues.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933428)

If Group A and Group B use exactly the same source data there's no possibility of Group B proving Group A's research wrong.

Wrong. If Group B cannot duplicate Group A's analysis of the data, that proves that Group A did something wrong and probably came to the wrong conclusion.

If Group B cannot duplicate the experiment and get the same data (and knowing that means being able to compare both sets) that calls the experiment as a whole into question.

There is more to science than simply applying equation A to data B and getting number C.

This hubbub all came about because of the difficulty in prying the source data out of the hands of the guy who produced the "hockey stick" figures. It's covered in the book "Broken Consensus" I think it's called. The "hockey stick" is not the "source data", the source data is all of the individual readings from all the instruments, prior to corrections for sampling errors or known issues. One cannot verify the quality of the "hockey stick" result without having the source data and being able to verify the processing steps that were done to it.

The downside to free and open access to all data is that research groups get grants to collect AND process the data to come up with results. Opening the data up for free access means that other groups, who have more interest in scooping than being right, have more ability to do that scooping. That leaves the people who did the work in the cold. There is good reason to delay opening the data until the group being paid to collect it has a chance to use it.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933668)

Not very good analogy. Particle physics generate data by experiments. You can't "generate" data in observational sciences.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932826)

So the question is, is it possible to request data on ANY publicly funded research going on in the UK? What about research on SILEX(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silex_Process), a laser based uranium enrichment process that is much more efficient than other enrichment processes(currently very very classified) or military research?

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

zeropointburn (975618) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933080)

No. Classified data is still protected by law, even if funded publicly and researched at a public university. Courts are extremely unlikely to ever decide that classified data should be blindly released for any reason, and the public nature of the funding behind it would not be grounds for release.

So what was your UK tax burden? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932924)

So what was your UK tax burden? Can UK taxpayers get US data for free now too?

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (2)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932936)

There is no question that having the data released eventually should be the rule. It shouldn't even be considered proven science until it can be thoroughly recreated. However, the tricky bit is mandating exactly by when it must be released. If a lab has spent a long time, let's say 10 years, accumulating some hard fought data, they should be allowed the benefit of a few publications before releasing all the data so that better (likely privately) funded labs do to the easy rapid analysis and 24/7 postdoc tag-team writing abuse and thus steal all the reward. Give them say... the sqrt(years_to_collect_the_data) out of encouragement to continue to do the heavy lifting. (my experience of this situation comes from protein crystallography and deposition of the hard won data there)

Funny how nacturation is against sharing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932984)

Funny how nacturation is against sharing when it comes to other intellectual property, but 150% behind this one.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932992)

The public pays for gathering the data, the public should have access to that data. Kinda hard to find fault with that.

No, it isn't. The fault is that the data may contain sensitive information. The Army collects data about enemies, should that be free access for the public? Nope. (I'm not arguing against making university data public, but your logic is flawed)

The data spans 40 years (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933088)

Do you think grad students were collecting data in the field on iPads in the 1980s?

Most of the data is probably in the form of moldy old penciled notebooks, core samples, B&W photo negatives and microscope slides. I hate to break it to you, but you know what, except maybe in physics or electrical engineering, not all experimental data was systematically recorded digitally until 15-20 years ago.

They collated, analyzed their data at the time, published their results in peer reviewed journals, and that was good enough. Now this judgement will require them to waste countless hours digging through old archives, scanning lab notebooks and so on, and for what? For one fucking idiot who apparently didn't even bother to read their latest paper in which they demonstrate that tree ring data for the trees they studied (oak or something) does not correlate with temperature but with summer rainfall.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (1)

Jason Pollock (45537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933318)

Except the public who paid for the data isn't the same as the public who are paying the researchers.

Large amounts of the data under discussion are from _foreign_ governments. Additionally, researchers frequently have to sign confidentiality agreements in order to gain access to health records and other data. If that needs to then be public, they won't have access to it.

Stupid judge, stupid finding.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (2, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933562)

Sure, I'll give you the data. But I wasn't funded to put the data in a format that's easy to understand. I've also got a job, and I don't get paid to support a competitor's data analysis attempts. Good luck.

Re:Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (5, Insightful)

michaelwv (1371157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933662)

Absolutely. The public should have access to the data. Public grants then also need to pay for curating the data. Libraries aren't free, archives aren't free, package data in an actually useful form takes precious time, which is scientists most precious resource. Having data in a form that is useful to the 25 people in your research group is very different than providing data that can be used by thousands of people. It's analogous to the difference between the quick bash script you have that backs up your movies to your external hard drive, and having something that you're willing to distribute to 1000 people and provide support.

Good and bad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932406)

I'm all in favor of open access to data, especially any produced by publicly funded research.

On the other hand, this will likely produce a whole stream of deliberately inaccurate analyses with ulterior motives behind them.

Also, in b4 someone suggesting that the scientists have an ulterior motive.

Re:Good and bad (3, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932554)

"Scientists" scared of goofy analysis are priests, not scientists. Take their funding away and use their PhD parchment for toilet paper.

Re:Good and bad (1)

jfw (2291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933052)

"Scientists" scared of goofy analysis are priests, not scientists. Take their funding away and use their PhD parchment for toilet paper.

Nonsense. I have much better things to do, like reading and posting on slashdot, than respond or deal with every crack pot who has an axe to grind but has no real idea how to do it. Seriously, you want to analyze the data? Go collect it yourself.

Re:Good and bad (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933568)

Fair enough. Just return the public grant money.

Re:Good and bad (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933354)

Scientists are always concerned when people who have no idea what they are doing try to interpret data. It has nothing to do with being scared.
For example:
Lets say this guy cherry picks some data to support his belief and Opera finds out about his 'findings' and puts him on the air. Suddenly 25 million people who aren't qualified to judge his assessment is not hounding politician over incorrect data.
I just spent about 10 years watch this very thing happen to Vaccines. Some idiots bad study gets on Opera, and a year later people are dying.

It's a real and serious problem, and the people causing it(media) are doing nothing to fix it.

Re:Good and bad (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933438)

What does a web browser have to do with it?

Re:Good and bad (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933412)

"Scientists" scared of goofy analysis are priests, not scientists. Take their funding away and use their PhD parchment for toilet paper.

Big business has a long history of setting up think tanks and foundations in order to churn out disinformation.
In the past I've brought up the tobacco industry as a prime example of business producing bad science in order to stave off regulation.
Less pernicious, but equally anti-science, are creationists, anti-vaxxers, and those pushing abstinence only.

I disagree with locking the data behind university walls, but it's amazingly naive to think that scientists shouldn't be scared of "goofy analysis".

It only takes a few morons in a hurry to poison what could be an otherwise rational debate.
See: Death Panels [factcheck.org]

Re:Good and bad (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933534)

The worst thing you can do is to hide your data because some fool may make a hash of it. The proper thing to do is, if an erroneous analysis get enough circulation, you point out the error. Chances are, you won't be alone in pointing out and so you probably won't have to bother yourself - more so for more frivolous and trivially inaccurate arguments.

Re:Good and bad (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932604)

On the other hand, this will likely produce a whole stream of deliberately inaccurate analyses with ulterior motives behind them.

But with the data public, it'll be easier to shoot them down for picking, choosing, skewing, and what else.

There is no reason why this kind of data should ever be "secret"

Re:Good and bad (3, Insightful)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932756)

That doesn't matter. The important thing is that the attacks are made. Even if every one is shown to be completely wrong, people will still remember all those (erroneous) anti-global warming reports. Especially since the media will enthusiastically report the initial attack and relegate the news of its rebuttal to a small paragraph on page 34, if they report it at all.

Re:Good and bad (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932872)

Trol modl? Er, what? I don't think so. Note to moderator: "troll" does not mean "I don't agree".

Re:Good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31933082)

Mod parent up!

This is most definately not a troll.

Re:Good and bad (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932890)

The worse it gets, the more me and my colleagues wished we could see the raw data and draw our own conclusions.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of listening to reports. I'm tired of hearing scientists say this and scientists say that.

Give me some FACTS, and I'll draw my own conclusions. If I'm wrong, you can correct me, and show me where I'm wrong. If you can't do that, I know who is lying.

Re:Good and bad (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932922)

You can read the publications. Well, the ones that aren't behind journal paywalls, unfortunately, but that's not by the choice of scientists.

The raw data will not help you, but you can judge the validity of the analyses if you like.

Re:Good and bad (1)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933112)

Unless you happen to be a scientist in a related field, raw data tends to be next to useless. Anybody can draw pretty graphs in Excel and get worried about a rising trend line, declining trend line or anomalous result but it takes someone who knows what they're talking about to explain what they actually mean.

naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932804)

Yeah, sure, it's perfectly easy for people to shoot down bad analyses (which don't just include incorrect selection of data, but also choosing inappropriate statistical techniques, bad models, etc.).

But the people with the most vested interest in producing deliberately bad analyses are the ones with the loudest megaphones and the greatest access to the press. Scientists all over the world, overwhelmingly, think that there's significant evidence of anthropogenic climate change as the result of our carbon output. Notice, though, that the public at large isn't nearly as convinced - mostly because 1) the science is actually complicated, and 2) because oil companies and their allies have a shitload of money to fund PR campaigns aimed at distracting the issue.

Make the data public, sure. But don't for a second think that you'll get any improvement in the bullshit factor.

Re:Good and bad (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932970)

On the other hand, this will likely produce a whole stream of deliberately inaccurate analyses with ulterior motives behind them.

But with the data public, it'll be easier to shoot them down for picking, choosing, skewing, and what else.

There is no reason why this kind of data should ever be "secret"

Surely it's not hard to see the dynamic that will unfold from this. Yes, the truth is "out there" for better or for worse. However, scientists will have to spend an enormous amount of time and money defending their work against cheap public shots from unqualified critics, instead of a smaller number of competent but dissenting colleagues. That will mean less time for doing research, preparing publications and writing grant proposals.

Consider also that even an expert can misinterpret raw data. Usually it takes an intimate knowledge of how the data was collected, the characteristics of the instruments, etc., in order to interpret it properly. Frequently, the only people with the proper knowledge to interpret raw data are those who collected it, built the instruments used for the measurements, or both. Without some kind of curation, raw data can generate far more "noise" than "signal."

Re:Good and bad (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933128)

But with the data public, it'll be easier to shoot them down for picking, choosing, skewing, and what else.

Not sure what regulations are on "release all data to the public" but seems like there are loopholes big enough to drive a bus through. For instance, in my field, no one but me knows how many cells I looked at. Maybe that thing I said happens in these cells happens in all those cells. Maybe I looked at 300 before seeing one doing what I said, took a picture of that one, and that was that. All my data would be that one cell I cherrypicked.

Even if I did take pictures of all 300, no one knows but me. Those other 299 can dissapear.

If I'm -not- evil though, this could hurt me. If I looked at say 3000 cells, and 10 were doing a thing that I thought was significant, I could have my reasons. Maybe the other 2990 were the wrong cell type or something. Being the expert, that might be obvious to me just from looking at them. A non expert looking at them might not see that. They would just see that out of 3000 cells, I chose the 10 that supported my data. They might call foul without bothering to have me explain myself.

There's no reason the data should be secret, but most data doesn't stand on it's own, and writing up supporting information to -all data gathered- just isn't going to happen.

Re:Good and bad (2, Informative)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933634)

If I'm -not- evil though, this could hurt me. If I looked at say 3000 cells, and 10 were doing a thing that I thought was significant, I could have my reasons. Maybe the other 2990 were the wrong cell type or something.

Of course you would. And if you truly did find such a strange sample set, you would document those reasons with just such a sentence. Maybe they WERE the wrong cell type, and in your paper you would be expected to say precisely that. Odds are fairly good you would have a citation concerning why those cells are the wrong type, if not several, since any such assertion that 99.7% of your sample set is junk would be unusual enough to require justification of your methodology. Perhaps no better cell culture or separation method is available. This should be easy enough to document and explain. It took me just one sentence fragment, after all.

Most likely, if there really isn't any better method, there have been multiple papers describing what the limitations are and why, in an effort to formulate a better method. There is probably also active, ongoing research into creating a better method, since any line of inquiry with such poor sources is bound to attract attention. To paraphrase Heinlein: To score an academic coup, find out what everyone agrees is impossible. Then do it.

Yes, you're probably going to experience an uptick in the noise floor if you're a UK researcher. The timecube guys are out there, and audible now. But complying with the UK directive is easy. Provide the data. You're not required to address specific demands of every crank who claims your data proves the existence of aliens. The people who control your tenure/salary/book deals/whatever read your paper, saw your cite, and moved on. The guy worried about aliens doesn't affect much of your life. Just your inbox.

Re:Good and bad (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933296)

Except they aren't experts at knowing what is picking, choosing and skewing and what is a correct and practical analysis of data. Prepare to see a lot of cherry pickling and so called 'experts' interpreting this data incorrectly. Many of whom won't even know what a P value is.

Re: data retention now required too? (1)

qubezz (520511) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933512)

There is no law that researchers need to retain their raw field data(?). After I publish my paper, this kind of hassle could be avoided by dragging the 'research data' directory into the rubbish bin on the desktop. Oops, I just dropped those notebooks into the shredder too, they were a fire hazard anyway...

If someone wants to peer-review, why don't they get their own grad students to drill their own tree cores, measure them, and come up with their own conclusion. It's not like the institution is hoarding a Rosetta Stone for themselves. Collective independent research will converge on the the most likely scenario and prove or disprove the controversial hypothesis put forth, and using data from the suspect study would only pollute further endeavors.

Re:Good and bad (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932852)

On the other hand, this will likely produce a whole stream of deliberately inaccurate analyses with ulterior motives behind them.

I think they're a lot more worried about accurate analyses than inaccurate ones. FUD will be much easier to deal with if it's really FUD because it can be criticized by more people than just the keepers of the sacred data.

Publicly funded (1, Offtopic)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932412)

Why doesn't this apply to the BBC?

Re:Publicly funded (0)

Angostura (703910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932470)

I think you'll find that the BBC actually broadcasts every program it makes, free to air.

Re:Publicly funded (2, Informative)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932568)

Free if you pay your TV tax or pirate I believe

Re:Publicly funded (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932696)

You can sit in the pub to watch the football if you prefer.....

Re:Publicly funded (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932904)

Actually, you don't need a license to watch iPlayer.

Re:Publicly funded (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932640)

I personally agree. they collect a huge amount of information about program availability, trends, and many other data services that are not the broadcasted portion of their TV that SHOULD be made available to the public.

yro my ass (2)

meow27 (1526173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932414)

making publicly funded non-military research has nothing to do with privacy. Public money is spent for the public good and there is no good justifiable reason to keep it hidden from the public... especially if its meant for the betterment of society.

if you want your data to be private, get your own privately funded money

Re:yro my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932766)

I don't think you understand the concept of the YRO category...

Re:yro my ass (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933206)

errr... no always.

Putting data into peoples hands whoa aren't experts often leads to bad things. See every non expert who believed Wakefield study because they didn't understand how to interpret data. In that case kids died , and kids are still dying.

In principle I agree with you, but we live in an are where everyone thinks they are a qualified expert in anything. That simply isn't true, and no good will come out of this.

The data wan't show a flaw in the study because it wasn't used, but he will inevitably cherry pick data to 'prove' the study is wrong. And people like Hannah Devlin are always happy to publish claims without proper study. So no good can come from this, and people need to understand that.

It's hard problem to solve.

Re:yro my ass (2, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933440)

"No good"?

None?

Are you quite sane?

good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932424)

good news for everyone but those jerks who wanted to profit.

Many academes want this too... (2, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932482)

Science journals have long fought this, because their profit model is strongest when they own copyright and are the exclusive publishers of a paper. Peer review and scientific principles don't mesh well with peer review though, and many academes have either "published" their papers on their own websites or found other ways to try to work around the journals.

Ridding peer review and science of copyright would be a great improvement.

Re:Many academes want this too... (4, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932552)

no, peer review is good. It helps to point out mistakes or inconsistencies. Getting rid of scientific journals is quasi-good (less profit motive in science, but also less chance to get work out there).

Re:Many academes want this too... (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933018)

Wikipedia has proven that peer review can be supported for almost nothing. If universities got their shit together they could make one massive data store with zero difficulty, and no middlemen making it impossible to find crap without spending hundreds of dollars per researcher for month.

The storage and administrative costs for all research papers should cost at most $50/researcher, and that's probably enough to build twenty redundant data centers around the world to carry every copy of every research paper published for the past twenty years.

Re:Many academes want this too... (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933028)

$50/month.

Re:Many academes want this too... (2, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933594)

Wikipedia has proven that peer review can be supported for almost nothing.

And that's the value you get from it. Allowing everyone to "peer review" everything results in the "truth" being the result of a majority vote, not the result of it being true.

Peer review requires peers, not random people off the street.

The storage and administrative costs for all research papers should cost at most $50/researcher,

You're confusing the cost of "peer review" with the cost of archiving a paper. Peer review takes place prior to publishing the paper. The value of many journals, compared to "random website" is that there IS peer review, and you are less likely to find random babbling and incoherent thought in the journal.

However, Open Access is the wave of the future, so you will eventually get peer reviewed work online, like you want.

Of course, this discussion is about the data behind the papers, not the papers themselves. I don't know of a single paper that includes the "raw source" data it was based on. That's the purpose of the paper, to analyze and theorize.

Peers? (0, Troll)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933522)

peer review is good

The trouble is that I don't consider most deniers of AGW to be peers of those who are doing genuine research. They are more likely to be peers with their friends/sponsors in the oil industry and other big businesses.

Just in case someone wonders, no I don't believe that everyone who does not believe in Climate Change is in the pay of the corporates. There will be some few who have done research and come to different conclusions. They are probably in the minority.

Peer review is productive when someone actually reviews it. That is not what those FOI requests were made for. They are made with the specific aim of disproving a conclusion they don't like. A review is neutral and could end up agreeing with the other person. This is not likely to happen here. They have made up their mind already.

Publishers had nothing to do with this. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932880)

This has nothing to do with journals. The data was not available anywhere - not in a for-pay journal, not on a website, not on request. It was the researchers that refused to release the raw data - the publishers have no motivation to suppress these release, because it is the published paper that earns them money, not the raw data.

Re:Many academes want this too... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933176)

Peer review and scientific principles don't mesh well with peer review though,

Peer review doesn't mesh well with peer review?? What?

Re:Many academes want this too... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933272)

No they haven't. They make money from published papers and reputation. Not raw data.

You meant "peer review vs. copyright", right? (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933358)

Peer review and scientific principles don't mesh well with peer review though [...] Ridding peer review and science of copyright

I assume the first "peer review" was meant to be "copyright"?

Also, I think you can do peer review with restrictive copyrights just fine. It's the whole sharing-of-results that goes away if there's a for-profit journal owning all the results.

Also, the article really isn't about sharing the results themselves, but sharing the data that informs and/or is the foundation for the results. Copyrights really doesn't enter into this question (IANAL TINLA) unless the data is contained within the article. By way of analogy: I can collect data on my computer's fan speed, you can come ask me for that data, and I can say "no way, go 'way"; I don't need copyrights on my data collection to not give it to anyone.

Good news from the UK (1, Interesting)

nescientist (1770702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932492)

More data in more hands is a good thing. It sounds like this specific case was driven primarily by the nonsensical quackings of a global-warming denialist, but whatever; information is beautiful and the more we share the love the better off we all are.

Re:Good news from the UK (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933224)

You say that until he gets on a major talk show, talks about his improperly interpret results and suddenly 20 million people are parroting his incorrect results.

Suddenly it's not a good thing because those same outlets will not give the same time to actual experts.

There are problems with this (1)

cranky_chemist (1592441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932606)

Does this mean every biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering research group (I'm talking about grad students and postdocs, here) would have to open their lab notebooks to anyone who asked? Researchers who ply their trade on the cutting edge of science live in perpetual fear of being "scooped" by another group who publishes their discovery first. These are sometimes literally "races." So now a group at one university could demand access to the notebooks of a group at another university? And vice versa?

Re:There are problems with this (2, Interesting)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932720)

Yes, yes, and yes. What is the problem? If they are racing, there is obviously something worth racing TO. If both teams have all the data, that goal will be reached no later, probably sooner.

Re:There are problems with this (3, Informative)

xilmaril (573709) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932726)

Does this mean every biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering research group (I'm talking about grad students and postdocs, here) would have to open their lab notebooks to anyone who asked?

Researchers who ply their trade on the cutting edge of science live in perpetual fear of being "scooped" by another group who publishes their discovery first. These are sometimes literally "races." So now a group at one university could demand access to the notebooks of a group at another university? And vice versa?

Not at all.

It means they have access to each others results and source data when published (once the group is done researching this phase, and is ready to publish). There's no "opening notebooks", simply because that's a terrible metaphor for how data is collected these days.

Re:There are problems with this (3, Informative)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932732)

You only have to publish your data after publishing your article, which means "you won". You don't have to publish data for a research in progress.

Awful summary (4, Insightful)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932630)

It turns out that "the data" are measurements of petrified tree rings, which were collected in the course of (presumably) a government grant-funded study. Now Queen's University researchers must compile the data for release because of the (UK) Freedom of Information Act. The scientists quoted in TFA apparently did not use the ring data for anything relating to climate studies, but Keenan has that purpose in mind.

Phil Willis, a Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee, said that scientists now needed to work on the presumption that if research is publicly funded, the data ought to be made publicly available.

That doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Appendices with raw data are often included already in the online editions of journals. Of course, if the ruling applies to all data generated in the course of a study, whether it is used in publications or not, it could be onerous indeed.

Re:Awful summary (2, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933152)

Now Queen's University researchers must compile the data for release because of the (UK) Freedom of Information Act.

Seems unreasonable. They should charge the requester for any effort needed to "compile" or transmit the data. No reason the public should foot the bill for any particular formatting or delivery.

Re:Awful summary (1)

Jason Pollock (45537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933376)

The data used in the research can be gathered from multiple sources, and is not necessarily gathered with funds from the government. Therefore, any requirement for public access would preclude the use of that data in research.

Since we're talking about weather data, many government weather offices charge fees for access to weather information, however, confidentiality clauses would also appear in health research (personally identifiable records, population studies, etc)

So, you're left with a choice, don't use the data and don't do your research, or do the research and don't release the data publicly.

Formatting Standards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932670)

I think this should be the case for all government sponsored research.
This will be a very good thing, as the act of publication relies on condensing/compressing actual data results.
Often things may be left out simply because the author didnt think they were important.
I am more concerned with the time and effort it will take to format data for external users.
An accompanying more detailed methodology will surely have to be provided for the data to be used correctly.

Re:Formatting Standards? (2, Insightful)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932856)

I am more concerned with the time and effort it will take to format data for external users.
An accompanying more detailed methodology will surely have to be provided for the data to be used correctly.

That is indeed an issue. Presumably the methodology is already published, as is the rule for scientific papers. What could happen is that competent scientists have to waste their time debunking incompetent analyses by axe-grinding cranks.

Actually, if the requirement is specified up front as terms for the grant, I'm not opposed to it. I don't think it'll do any good, mind you, as a rule all that's useful is published, and scientists are generally happy to cooperate if you need more, as long as you have honest intent. But the current system is a charter for arseholes using FoI requests to harass scientists.

Re:Formatting Standards? (2, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933360)

What could happen is that competent scientists have to waste their time debunking incompetent analyses by axe-grinding cranks.

It's much more likely that incompetent scientists will be debunked by more competent analysis, because as soon as there is any controversy regarding a study the scientific community swarms to verify one way or the other.

Also, it's just as important to know what data was disregarded, and why (there are a plethora of valid reasons, but there are even more invalid reasons) as it is to know what was included. The GP's point about the tree ring data that was collected but never used, why wasn't it used? Was it simply because they weren't interested in doing a tree-ring study, and used the data for something else entirely? Or did it make their model not work quite right so they tossed it out? How is anybody to know if they can't look at the data they collected?

Furthermore, if the raw data is not provided, you cannot verify that the models and statistical conclusions are correct. What if there is a problem with the model the researchers were using? Well, if you plug the data into a better model, or even just a different model, you'll see a big difference if one of them is wrong. Climate science relies heavily on computer models, and often multiple researchers will use the exact same model in their study, so it's not hard to get a systemic error across multiple studies.

In other words, how can you verify anybody's science without the original data they observed to begin with? I'm never going to look at this data, I wouldn't have a clue what to do with it, but I know there are a lot of climate researchers who are chomping at the bit to verify these studies.

NSF (2, Interesting)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932676)

does anyone know if the NSF has similar requirements?

Re:NSF (3, Interesting)

imidan (559239) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932836)

The NSF has recently taken more of an interest in research data management. They're definitely starting to make it a requirement of grant funding that the research data be digitally stored, backed up, and, after a cooling-off period to allow the principal researchers to publish, made available to the public. I'm working on a research data management group at my university, and the researchers generally seem open to the idea, though they're loathe to put in any extra effort to make it work.

Re:NSF (2, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#31932954)

Yes it does, kinda. Thanks to our publishing overlords however these 'making available' issues are more difficult than just publishing it online or so. The data cannot be made available as long as a publishing house has copyrights on it and the publishing house usually takes copyright for all work for years including data that is not directly published by them especially when the work is or becomes popular. However NSF/NIH grants usually have the requirement to release all data to the public a couple of years (usually around 10 or 25 years depending on the grant) after collection or publishing. But if you don't publish through one of the big names, your career as a scientist usually doesn't go much of anywhere. Also, a lot of machinery can't be afforded on any grant but a governments' (multi-million dollar machines), the device that collects the data could be funded by the NIH and the grant has the requirements to release data 10 years after collection. However in order to make money to keep the system running, the institution needs other funds from other sources each with their own constraints.

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist but I manage about 60TB of collected data owned or funded by a combination of private/individual funds, internal funds, corporate funds, publishing houses, NIH, NSF and other grants which should or should not be made available to the public.

Re:NSF (1)

michaelwv (1371157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933638)

Most scientific journal copyright agreements do not restrict authors right to reproduce data from their papers. The copyright is very specifically on the copy-edited published manuscript. The publisher often _manages_ copyright on behalf of the author or society for copyright enforcement and for granting permission for reproductions. The data can definitely be made available. Read the copyright transfer agreements carefully. The real problem in all of this is that: "here is the raw data file in my custom format" is not that useful. Curation of data is important, data should be publically available, and that needs to be funded.

Re:NSF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932966)

NSF certainly promotes the release of data but its not compulsory (at least in my very non-politically sensitive field). I suspect that might be different for climate scientists or food safety or the like. So far as I know DOE funded groups are under no obligation to release their raw data. In contrast, NASA releases all its science data, raw and processed. However they do so only after a "honeymoon" in which the project scientists get a first shot at it (only fair when you've busted your ass to put together an experiment for years and even decades).

Not always feasible... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31932740)

We can agree that the whole scientific process does not make much sense if we have to believe in the interpretations without seeing the actual data. From this perspective it is crucial for all scientific data to be open.

The other perspective comes from the individual scientist. It might take years to put together a complete data set of a particular phenomenon via experiments, literature review, digging in the ground or looking at the stars. So after looking for something special you finally discover something new and write a small article about it. This will just be something along the lines of: "hey, there is something interesting going on here." Now you go back and look carefully at all your data for similar events, filter out noise because you have a better idea what to look for and then hopefully publish more about. So the next article will not only contain more information but also some analysis about the possible origins of the phenomenon and so forth.

Imagine you had to open your carefully put together data right the second after you recorded it. Other people might grab your stuff and your research might not even be cited because they just looked at all the steps that you took that were not successful and repeated the experiments or used other available data.

This interest in keeping your data private cannot be avoided with the current system of judging a scientist by his or her publications.

Re:Not always feasible... (0)

mick232 (1610795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933218)

So what? Someone else will publish something that you didn't find out. Society will nevertheless benefit and thus get what they pay for. They don't pay for the individual benefit of single researchers.

Re:Not always feasible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31933502)

Scientists get payed for publications, not data.

Teaching? (2, Interesting)

jfw (2291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933104)

OK, why does this argument not also apply to teaching? I am paid to teach and do research from the public purse. My teaching is available to any one who meets certain standards and pays a user fee. Access to data should be the same.

So a non expert (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933136)

wants to use data that wasn't used for climate change and models in order to prove that the studies that didn't use them are flawed.

Add to that a reporter who continually overstates anything the climate change denilist say, I'm sure it will confuse even more people.
This should be fun.

Official notice - AYBABTU (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933418)

Curiously, the decision was sent rather obscurely... OFFICIAL NOTICE -AYBABTU. [archive.org]

How about source code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31933456)

If one desires real transparency in an experimental procedure, One should also release the code that turns data in to the published experimental findings. The can be "black boxes" but the source that implements the experimental should be public so that the experiments are reproducible.
Ultimately any "computational" experiments results should depend only the data and random seed.
To go even further a autonomous authority (ex a scientific journal) could assign the random seed to any prospective published research and require experimental results derived from published source code, data and the key.
The random seed is applicable to methods that introduce random elements in to calculation which is quite common in our days.
The assignment random seed would prevent an experiment with random elements to be repeated until satisfactory results come out.

It would be quite hard to

It's a step in the right direction... (2, Interesting)

El Fantasmo (1057616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933538)

I believe that all public universities (in the US) that cannot prove public money was not used on research, should be required to release the findings/data to the public shortly after it is published. Of course there are exceptions for things involving national security and what not.

Conflicting Laws? (2, Interesting)

Sir Mal Fet (1402403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31933542)

I wonder how this conflicts with the laws about Privacy of Data. For example, if a company shares a dataset that contains sensible information with a University (this CAN be done, at least in my country, with a contract. We compromise to safeguard the data and to not violate Privacy laws, consultants also do this everywhere) for the purpose of developing a model or some other application that needs the data. The professor then publishes a paper with the main (non-corporate secret) results, and uses public funds for an undergrad or something. Does this mean the professor can be sued into giving the information away? Doing this clearly violates the laws on privacy, but would conflict directly with the Freedom of Information Act. Compelling with one law contradicts the other... I do not think that this can be upheld in court for EVERY case, instead it would have to be analyzed in a case-by-case basis using (possible costly) lawsuits. Then again, IANAL, so maybe I'm wrong... (Full disclosure: I am a researcher in data mining)
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