What's the Idea?

We aim to make it easy for people – like you – to make enquires of data holders, about the openness of the data they hold — and to record publicly the results of those efforts. We're especially focused on scientific data but anyone can use this service.

We're inspired by What Do They Know?, a site which allow citizens to make requests to find out information to which they have a right. It works by identifying the right place to ask, assisting users make requests and publicly displaying the results.

Who's Behind This?

This is a project set up by the Working Group on Open Data in Science at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Want to Get In Touch?

Have a question, found a bug or just want to tell us what you think? Email us at [email protected]. Want to get involved in running and developing the project: join the mailing list.

Publication Policy and License

All requests sent by this service, and all responses to those requests, will be made publicly available on this website and may be freely accessed copied by anyone. Formally, all material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License v3.0.

Privacy Policy

We will not disclose emails of users of this service unless required to by law (or you ask us to disclose your address). For more information see http://www.okfn.org/privacy-policy. Details of 'data handlers' to whom requests are addressed will generally be published though we do (partially) obfuscate email addresses.

Is 'Is It Open' Open?

Yes! All the code and content (excluding requests) on this site is openly licensed under, respectively, the GNU Affero GPL v3.0 and a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike v3. The code can be obtained from our mercurial repository.

What is Open Data?

Open data is data that can used, reused and redistributed without restriction other than (perhaps) the requirement to attribution or share-alike. A full definition of openness is available at http://www.opendefinition.org/1.0. Data is closed if, for example, it requires additional permission or payment for its reuse.

What Kind of (Scientific) Data Are You Thinking Of?

For the purposes of this project, data includes all primary experimental data published within or alongside research papers. This could be:

  • Anything co-published with the full text of a scholarly article, that is labeled as supporting or supplemental information or data (or similar terms)
  • The data content of any table or graph primarily concerned with experimental data.
  • Any image acting as the primary way of capturing or reporting science e.g. Protein gels.
  • Any audio or video stream representing primary data capture e.g. Moving physical objects.

Why Is Open Data Needed?

Scientists produce a vast amount of data in the course of their research. In the Internet age, this data can and should be available to be used as an input into new research, but for this to happen the data needs to be explicitly labelled as open.

What's the Problem?

In practice it is often unclear whether the data on publisher's websites is openly available i.e accessible and freely re-usable without additional permission. In some cases, publishers may even restrict access to data by adding specific terms and conditions.

This despite the fact that Scholars donate their data to the community, without payment, through the publication process. They assume that anyone can then use their data for additional research and education, with the only requirement being that the original researchers are acknowledged.

This view is also supported by publishers' organizations; for example the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) have issued a statement endorsing this approach to data access.

Don't authors sign their data over?

Many publishers require that authors sign a transfer of copyright for their submitted manuscripts but this does not necessarily cover data. Here, we make no comment on Closed and Open Access to full text articles here, but argue that the data associated with publications belongs to the community and is, and should, be open.

How do I find out if data is open?

The first method is to look on the publisher's website for their terms and conditions regarding use of their data. This may categorically state that they reserve rights to all data, alternatively they may clearly apply an open knowledge license to their data (see http://www.opendefinition.org/licenses/ for a list of such licenses). If the situation is ambiguous or unclear somebody may have requested clarification in the past (please check the archive or previous requests before sending a new one). If not, an enquiry can be made through the website.