Presenting Data Versus Sharing Data Openly

Sometimes you read things that you know are amiss and wonder whether journalists actually check their facts. This happened to myself and Antony Williams. We both read an Economist article published in December which we believed had made an important mistake about sharing data openly. We did the right thing, wrote to the editor. Here is our letter (links added for clarity and for further reading):

Sir –Dr. Hans Rosling suggested that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) “demands that every research project it funds has to make its full data set freely available, like open-source software code” (Making data dance, December 11th). This suggests Open Data, by which it is free to use, reuse, and redistribute. According to BMGF, grantees “are encouraged to prepare data sets and findings resulting from the Project for public presentation on the Grand Challenges for Global Health website as soon as practical following conclusion of the Project”. “Presentation of the data” does not appear to fully support the concept of Open Data. GlaxoSmithKline on the other hand recently released a large quantity of malaria data into public and open databases. Academics may not be obligated to follow or are able to. Perhaps the BMGF could request that the data from all the studies it funds are hosted as Open Data at any or all of the myriad of online resources after a year. Researchers need funding and the BMGF want to eradicate diseases while data sharing may prompt analyses that lead to novel discoveries. Surely that’s a good thing?

Sean Ekins,
Collaborations in Chemistry,
Jenkintown, PA.

Antony J. Williams,
Royal Society of Chemistry,
Wake Forest, NC.


In February I asked if they had a comment and received the following email, (they had not even checked the spelling of my name).

Dear Mr Elkins,
We did not publish your letter, but it was read with interest by the
author of the article and the editor of the section.

Yours sincerely
Letters Department
The Economist


I find it strange that nobody else picked up on this..or did you?

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  1. tony says:

    I’m very interested to see what people have to say about this Sean. I’m glad you;ve joined the Blogosphere…welcome!

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