February 2008

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Well the folks (Matt Ball and Jeff Thurston) over at Spatial Sustain a Vector 1 Media blog have a great article exactly about that topic here. The article discusses free data as a platform for economic expansion, how free geospatial data weighed against cost represents a return on investment, industry creation based on government free data in the US.

Free federal data spurred free market competition. If the data were locked up to begin with, the market would never have taken off. There wouldn’t be the level of investment in technology, and we’d be much poorer in terms of both economic benefit and our knowledge of our world.

A few years back Gabe Sawhney and I co-prepared and Gabe gave the presentation entitled CivicAccess.ca: Democracy in an information age and the need for free and open civic data at Geotec organized by Matt and it is nice to see Matt doing some new stuff.

Create Change Canada

is an educational initiative that examines new opportunities in scholarly communication, advocates changes that recognize the potential of the networked digital environment, and encourages active participation by scholars and researchers to guide the course of change.

Create Change was developed by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and is supported by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). The website was adapted for the Canadian environment by SPARC and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). The US version of Create Change is available here.

Create Change has a small section (relative to the others) on data. It refers to the 2005 National Consultation on Access to Scientific Research Data (NCASRD) report. But alas, there remains no national strategy or resources for infrastructures and policies on the issue of open access, dissemination and preservation of scientific data in Canada since that report. The NCASRD report was also only briefly mentioned in the October 2007 Canadian Digital Information Strategy (CDIS). I am glad Create Change mentions the NCASRD report as it is one of the few consultations that included data specialists and scientists, making its recommendations relevant, grounded in practice and includes clear recommendations and strategies overlooked by the CDIS.

The Harnessing Data Section also refers to the Research Data Centre Program which is a closed shop when it comes to citizens as it is a Statistics Canada initiative only open to researchers, a great US National Institute of Health (NIH) genetic sequence database GenBank® and a Canadian Astronomy Data Centre. Odd that the Science Commons and the work of government departments that disseminate scientific data such as NRCan’s Data Discovery Portal is not mentioned! Both of these were groundbreaking. Most notably the very progressive Geobase Unrestricted Use Licence Agreement, open and free access to some (not all) of Canada’s national framework data and GeoGratis which disseminates free data. Canadian’s still do not have access to basic national, provincial and municipal geomatics data sets (let alone a most socio demographic data), nonetheless, the work of GeoConnections is surely to grow and their dissemination, accord signing, technological approaches, standards and partnership practices can most certainly be emulated elsewhere.

I hope Create Change will help open up natural and social science data to Canadians. At the moment their site provides much more on open access journals, new forms to disseminate and discover scholarly works, methods to create those works, and the scholarly merit system. There is less on scientific data, perhaps as is normally the case in Canada, scientific organizations like CODATA, or science producing organizations are not at these tables. I fully support the direction Create Change is going, however, journals, scholarship and the merit system evolve around access to data – data is what informs scholarly works and I would love to see more input from the data people!

I was very excited to see which journals are accessible in their Expanding Access Section and I look forward to seeing scientific organizations contribute to their Harnessing Data Section.  They most certainly have the right cultural institutions, publishing, and library people at the table but they are missing scientific data associations and archivists.


geohash.org offers short URLs which encode a latitude/longitude pair, so that referencing them in emails, forums, and websites is more convenient.

OpenCulture has a list of free online university courses!


via: Open Access News

The authors of Datalibre.ca and of course members and founders of CivicAccess.ca have just published the lead article in this months Open Source Business Resource.

The entire issue addresses Data Access.


Data Access in Canada: CivicAccess.ca Abstract HTML
Tracey P. Lauriault, Hugh McGuire  
How is Copyright Relevant to Source Data and Source Code? Abstract HTML
Joseph Potvin  
Implementing Open Data: The Open Data Commons Project Abstract HTML
Jordan Hatcher  
The Personal Research Portal Abstract HTML
Ismael Peña-López

Also, check out the work of Talent First the lead organization behind the magazine; they are a Carleton University unit dedicated to promoting the use, dissemination, education and creation of open source technologies in the University.

The magazine is

The Open Source Business Resource (OSBR) is a free monthly publication of the Talent First Network. The OSBR is for Canadian business owners, company executives and employees, directors of open source foundations, leaders of open source projects, open source groups, individuals and organizations that contribute to open source projects, academics and students interested in open source, technology transfer professionals, and government employees who promote wealth creation through innovation.

Each issue contains thoughtful insights on open source issues written for and by people who work with open source.

mapping london

I’m in an Advanced GIS class for which I need to produce a final cartographic project. The project must begin in ArcGIS but from there I’m free to use anything else (Illustrator, Flash, Google Earth, etc). In the spirit of John Snow, I’d like to make my upcoming trip to London a force for academic good.

Any ideas, to help out?

When you’re dealing with a flooding emergency in the middle of the worst drought for many years, the last thing you need is barriers to the sharing of geographical and meteorological information.

Yet that’s the situation faced by Australia. The authorities’ response is to consider the widespread adoption of Creative Commons licences for public-sector information.

From The Guardian UK, via Free Our Data.

This encapsulates, to me, the most compelling argument for free data. That getting access to data helps us better solve problems; barriers to data make for a less innovative, less healthy country.

I subscribe to Open Access News, by Peter Suber, which is a blog about:

Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature on the internet. Making it available free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Removing the barriers to serious research.

And a topic near and dear to datalibre.ca… The flow of announcements coming out of Open Access News is truly amazing. Universities and government agencies and quasi-governmental academic bodies, particularly in the US and Europe seem to be making statements on a daily basis – at least OA News is writing about them on a daily basis.

The front page currently has items about Harvard’s OA plans, University of Oregon Faculty Senate adopting a resolution in support of OA, the Budapest Open Access Initiative, OA in Italy … etc.

A slim number of the posts touch on Canada, and especially few on big announcements from Canadian universities and professional/scientific associations.

So, what is the state of OA in Canada? Where are all the initiatives? Where are all the Universities? Are they active, or are we happy, as a country, to lag behind the rest of the world?

Jim Till, of U of T, is writing a blog called: Be Openly Accessible Or Be Obscure, named after this article, which answers some of these questions.

Project Open Source | Open Access, also at U of T, is another place that ought to have some answers, since:

… phase II of the project will focus on research. We have identified Open Scholarship as the theme for 2007-2008, but we will also continue to build on faculty research strengths and interests in the design, development and use of open source environments for collaboration and learning; in institutional innovation; in OS business models; in open access journal publishing; and in the evaluation of journal impact factors.

Last update to their RSS feed was Oct 2007 … let’s hope there’s more good news to come.

So, how are we doing on OA in Canada?


DBpedia is a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web. DBpedia allows you to ask sophisticated queries against Wikipedia and to link other datasets on the Web to Wikipedia data.

us political blogmap It seems that there is an explosion of data visualization work being done on the political process and the Presidential election in the US of A. I just landed on PresidentialWatch08 a site for all you political junkie/blogospheria/dataviz fans. They’ve got a lovely map of influential political blogs and news sites. The project seems to be run by a web analytics company, linkfluence.

Anyone planning anything similar in Canada?

[via infosthetics]