Recommendation to the EU Hearing on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information
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Recommendation to the EU Hearing on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information

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Talk given by Peter Burnhill to the EU Hearing on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information, Luxembourg, May 2011

Talk given by Peter Burnhill to the EU Hearing on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information, Luxembourg, May 2011

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    Recommendation to the EU Hearing on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information Recommendation to the EU Hearing on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information Document Transcript

    • Thank  you  for  this  invitation  to  contribute  to  the  formation  of  policy  on  this  topic.  Let me begin by quoting two scientists.The first is the  Spanish  Nobel  Prize  winner     Santiago  Ramón  y  Cajal    He  wrote:   “A  scholar’s  positive  contribution  is  measured  by  the  sum  of  the   original  data  that  he  contributes.  Hypotheses  come  and  go  but   data  remain.”    He  said  that  in  1897  in  his  work:   Advice  to  a  Young  Investigator.    The  21st  Century  data  scientist  Mark  Parsons,  advises  us:       “You  are  not  finished  until  you  have  done  the  research,  published   the  results,  and  published  the  data,  receiving  formal  credit  for   everything.”    This  highlights  two  key  concepts  for  preservation  of  scientific  data:    Making  data  public     and       gaining  recognition       <<As  Aside:  On  the  matter  of  publishing  data,  my  lawyers  tell  me   to  use  the  phrase  ‘to  make  data  available’      in  order  not  to  imply   a  new  role  for  the  present  day  publishers.>>    Two  key  challenges  are  therefore     • how  to  make  data  available  into  the  future,  and  for  the  future    <<  data  need  not  be  digital;  all  that  is  digital  are  not  always  data  –  but  they  might  become  so.  >>    and       • how  to  provide  the  reward  of  recognition,  to  add  motivation  by   carrot,  not  just  the  stick  of  compliance.           1  
    •  I  would  like  to  make  three  recommendations:      1.  First,  in  seeking  to  preserve  the  record  of  science  for  the  future,  we  should  include  research  literature  as  an  important  part  of  the  record  of  science.  Both  have  evidential  value  for  research,  and  the  relationship  between  the  two  is  also  important.      **  In  order  to  keep  to  time,  I  would  like  to  submit  separate  written  note  on  the  relationship  between  research  literature  and  research  data,  in  which  I  contrast  three  types  of  data  [reversing  the  labels  I  have  used  elsewhere  to  give  prominence  to  the  data  originating  close  to  the  instrument  by  which  the  data  were  generated]:       A. the  source  &  reference  databases  that  are  curated  in  data   centres  and  large-­‐scale  research  ‘data  factories’  –  from   which  datasets  are  often  extracted  and  analysed  by   researchers       B. the  datasets  upon  which  the  conclusions  published  in   literature  are  based     C. the  supplementary  data  files  that  increasingly  accompany   enhanced  e-­‐publication  in  research  literature.      Responsibilities  for  these  different  types  of  data  differ.    2.  My  second  recommendation  is  that  ‘future-­proofing’  requires  we  make  data  available        -­    as  though  for  researchers  beyond  our  immediate  peer  group  and      for  the  machine-­as-­user      -­‐  thereby  to  ensure  that  future  researchers  can  use  their  software  on  these  data  for  what  can  only  be  called        ‘unimaginable  purposes’.      This  means  opening  up  the  knowledge  now  locked  in  document  formats  like  pdf  so  that  the  scientific  literature  becomes  scientific  data.      3.  Third,  when  the  Commission  re-­‐visits  the  grand  societal  challenges  to  which  research  can  and  should  address,  it  should  regard  ‘assured  and  continuing  access  to  digital  content’  itself  as  a  grand  societal  challenge  -­‐  one  to  which  Europe’s  scientific  and  scholarly  community  can  and  are  making  globally  significant  and  lead  contribution.        It  follows  that  we  should  not  have  a  narrow  view  of  science  and  scientific  data.     2  
    •  What  then  of  preservation  of  research  literature?        In  days  of  print  no  one  expected  the  publishers  to  have  the  last  copy;  it  was  for  the  libraries  to  exercise  stewardship  on  behalf  of  future  researchers.      But  with  digital  anytime/anyplace  access,  libraries  do  not  easily  have  that  opportunity  –  and  it  is  not  necessary  that  every  library  has  to  have  every  copy  on  its  digital  shelf.    There  are  better  ways  of  behaving.    Fortunately  several  organisations  are  stepping  forward  to  be  active  as  archiving  agencies  –  LOCKSS,  CLOCKSS,  Portico  and  national  libraries  such  as  the  BL  and  the  Dutch  KB  are  all  working  with  publishers  to  take  stewardship  of  e-­‐journal  and  other  digital  content.        I’m  pleased  to  report  that  the  ISSN  International  Centre  in  Paris  and  EDINA  have  been  working  with  those  leading  agencies  in  a  JISC-­‐funded  project  to  create  an  online  facility,  peprs.org  to  act  as  a  monitor  to  establish  who  is  looking  after  what  e-­journal,  how,  and  with  what  terms  of  access.          peprs.org  is  available  now  as  an  online  source  about  the  ‘keepers’  –  in  Beta  form  -­‐    and  we  are  seeking  help  on  establishing  how  it  should  be  governed.    Research  literature  is  of  international  concern.  It  requires  international  action.  Our  experience  is  that  relying  upon  legal  deposit  legislation  is  not  enough.        For  example,  as  one  of  12  steward  libraries,  the  University  of  Edinburgh  is  one  of  three  secure  Archive  Nodes  in  Europe  (*)  on  behalf  of  CLOCKSS  which  has  reached  direct  and  international  agreement  with  publishers.      The  EU  and  the  Commission  have  an  important  part  to  play  in  ensuring  that  Europe  has  a  lead  role.            *  the  other  two  are  Humboldt  University  (Berlin,  Germany)  and  Università  Cattolica  del  Sacro  Cuore    (Milan,  Italy)   3  
    • In  closing  I  would  like  to  say  a  few  words  about  the  ways  in  which  the  University  of  Edinburgh  has  been  involved  and  the  contribution  we  have  been  attempting  to  make,  over  the  long  and  for  the  long.    The  University  is  a  research-­‐led  seat  of  learning,  set  in  Scotland’s  Capital,  renown  for  the  flourishing  of  the  Scottish  Enlightenment,  and  now  contributing  internationally  to  the  UK  and  European  research  base.  Its  commitment  to  stewardship  for  research  content  was  signaled  from  the  start,  as  the  Library  came  first,  three  years  ahead  of  the  start  of  what  became  the  first  civic  university  in  1583.      What  now  of  its  digital  stewardship?      In  1983,  Edinburgh  decided  to  set  up  the  first  University  Data  Library  in  the  UK,  having  studied  the  growth  of  national  social  science  data  archives  in  Europe  and  institutional  data  libraries  in  North  America.       I  was  at  the  University  at  the  time  as  a  research  statistician,   designing  and  supervising  sample  surveys  in  a  research  centre   that  had  begun  to  make  its  data  available  for  others  to  use,   engaging  with  practitioners.       I  was  recruited  to  take  charge  of  this  new  Data  Library.    What  I   learnt  was  much  about  data  archiving  but  a  great  deal  more  about   how  to  assist  researchers  and  students  discover  and  obtain   access  to  data  produced  by  others.       I  learnt  how  to  be  demand-­focussed.     That  has  helped  when  realising  the  plans  of  policy  agencies  like   JISC  working  to  serve  research  needs  across  the  UK     –  done  via  a  range  of  content  and  infrastructure  services  deployed   by  EDINA  as  national  academic  data  centre,  and  the  Digital   Curation  Centre  taking  the  lead  internationally  in  combining  the   two  approaches  of  value-­‐added  data  curation  and  long  term  digital   preservation.        [David  and  I  worked  together  during  that  set-­‐up  phase  for  the  DCC.]    Edinburgh  is  the  venue  for  the  INSPIRE  Conference  next  month  to  which  my  colleagues  are  contributing  5  papers,  including  one  on  ‘continuing  access’  for  these  spatially-­‐reference  data  produces  by  public  sector  bodies  across  Europe.   4  
    • David  spoke  of  mandates.  I  am  delighted  to  be  able  to  announce  that  earlier  this  month,  the  University  now  has  claim  to  be  among  the  first  to  approve  an  institutional  policy  to  guide  researchers  and  support  staff  in  their  management  of  digital  research  data.      http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-­‐departments/information-­‐services/about/news/research-­‐policy-­‐news      Three  of  the  policy  measures  are  as  follows:    ·    Research  data  of  future  historical  interest,  and  all  research  data  that  represent  records  of  the  University,  including  data  that  substantiate  research  findings,  will  be  offered  and  assessed  for  deposit  and  retention  in  an  appropriate  national  or  international  data  service  or  domain  repository,  or  a  University  repository.    ·    Any  data  which  is  retained  elsewhere,  for  example  in  an  international  data  service  or  domain  repository  should  be  registered  with  the  University.    ·    Exclusive  rights  to  reuse  or  publish  research  data  should  not  be  handed  over  to  commercial  publishers  or  agents  without  retaining  the  rights  to  make  the  data  openly  available  for  re-­use,  unless  this  is  a  condition  of  funding.    This  policy  recognizes  that  archival  responsibility  and  digital  preservation  are  not  just  something  to  think  about  at  the  end  of  a  project,  but  at  the  outset.      It  sets  standards  and  defines  the  different  responsibilities  for  the  institution  and  the  researcher  -­‐  for  the  all  important  PIs.    It  is  being  followed  through  with  implementation  via  the  training  and  services  that  many  researchers  will  need  including  provision  of  a  central  resilient  data  storage  service.     ***********  To  re-­state  those  three  recommendations:       • include  research  literature  as  part  of  the  record  of  science       • make  data  available  for  the  machine-­as-­user     • propose  ‘assured  and  continuing  access  to  digital  content’  as   the  next  grand  societal  challenge     5