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OpenCon2015: About the Academic World

I just spent the day at OpenCon2015 Toronto (about open access and open data), at the well-used and welcoming Mozilla meeting space near Spadina and Adelaide.

Being somewhat new to the Open Data movement world, my view was limited to the Civic Tech Toronto perspective, namely Civil Society Organizations relating to government open data issues. But it turned out that the conference was more about academia, open research, publishing, grant conditions related to open data, and the like. Quite an eye-opener.

Arliss Collins from mozillascience.org described some of the work of the Mozilla Science Lab, including training, supporting material, and facilitation of open data among researchers. Worth checking out if you're in that world.

She listed a number of perspectives on openness:

  • open source
  • open access
  • open data
  • open standards
  • open government
  • open science

... and a definition: open means outsiders can contribute and become insiders as appropriate.

John Dupuis, a Science Librarian at York University gave an experienced perspective on open data from his point of view. Check out Canada's g8 open data charter, digital canada 150 (2014) the Government of Canada open data policy that is "a comprehensive plan to provide all Canadians with the digital skills and the tools required for the future." He thinks these are of themselves progressive.

He also thinks generally open data is well established, and the next 10 years we'll be working on taking better advantage.

He also mentioned that libraries are paying on the order of $10B in fees to publishers, a substantial amount.

Keith McDonald with Open Data City of Toronto, was the last speaker.

Open Toronto started in 2009 with Mayor Miller.

For another definition of openness, open data from the City's standpoint is raw, readable by computer, and free.

Crowdsourcing of interest generates projects which add value to the data.

Open Data Toronto reports to an open government committee.

The City uses OpenText content management system for the open data portal at the moment, but is considering more dedicated software solutions, such as ckan or socrata.

The open data portal currently has 199 file sets, 500+ files. The ttc makes a lot of data available.

My own (limited) experience is that Toronto's open data tends to be fragmented and incomplete, but given increasing interest in the portal (particularly from academia according to Keith), this can only improve.

In general I took the signals from the conference as another confirmation that open data (and for that matter open government) is on the rise, in terms of both interest and acceptance. We should take advantage of this as an opportunity to make some progress in the field.