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Go8 joins Paris talks to push for greater global open access to research data

January 28, 2020

A senior delegation of Group of Eight (Go8) international policy and research experts has joined representatives of nine of the world’s leading research university networks, including the Association of American Universities (AAU), the UK’s Russell Group, Canada’s U15, Germany’s U15, Japan’s RU11, and the League of European research Universities (LERU), for an “International research data rights summit” hosted by the Sorbonne. The summit will work through how best to gain unanimity of purpose and policy on research data sharing.

Currently, while the conclusions of leading universities’ major research projects are typically published in prestigious and often open access journals, and usually developed using global teams comprised of some of the best researchers in their fields, the data underpinning such research is not often so readily available. The research results are set out, but not always the data specifics of how those results were arrived at; the proof.

The Go8 sees data release and sharing as an excellent way of instilling public trust in ever more complex research – if universities can work together to overcome the hurdles.

Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson, says “cost can be an issue that prevents this sharing occur, because there can be massive or complex data involved with resulting data infrastructure needs.

“Culture can also be a sticking point, where researchers in some disciplines are unfamiliar with releasing such valuable material publicly. The appropriate handling of sensitive and personal data must also be catered for.

“But when you think that today there could be ‘undiscovered’ public research data somewhere in a university that could assist the World Health Organisation either slow or halt the spread of coronavirus, you get a feel for how important it is for public research to be open; for us to make it discoverable, to release and to share.

“That is the Sorbonne agenda. Already the Australian Government is developing draft legislation relating to the sharing and release of its own agencies’ data which could well have a flow on effect for the university sector. The Go8 is in discussion about this legislation’s progress.”

Ms Thomson said that while the Go8 already works with Government agencies and other users and makes a proportion of its research data readily available, such as environmental data to the Bureau of Meteorology and Geosciences Australia, it was far from the majority.

“The Go8 is a signatory to the Paris summit communique (view communique here), setting out that it does support the ideal of open research data and we have agreed to advocate to assist this ideal being realised.”

Media contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155

Examples of Go8 universities sharing or enabling the linking of data with government and others:

  • Terrestrial ecosystem research data (including plot data on soil and vegetation; gas, energy, and water exchange data; remote sensing data) with Commonwealth and state government agencies – including to help understand the impact of heatwaves on birds and post-fire recovery and resilience
  • Earth and environmental sciences research data with CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and other universities as well as the global research community to assist with weather modelling and predictive capabilities
  • Population Health Research data, with relevant authorised state government agencies and the Institute of Health and Welfare – including to help resolve issues as varied as hospital wait times, examining challenges in prisoners’ health, and indigenous childhood cancer survival
  • Plant phenomics data to the agricultural industry and government agencies to assist with improving crop yields, or resilience of crops to stresses such as drought and salinity, among other research and practical challenges