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Open Data: What is open data?

Art Credit to Open Government Partnership Summit

Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike. - Open Data Handbook

What is open data?

Before we answer the question, it's important to know what data is. Data is the collected values or facts that may be interpreted and allow insight into a particular topic. Data can be qualitative or quantitative but ultimately it's purpose is to explain or explore ideas and issues. For that reason, data can be extremely valuable to a wide range of people and entities. Open data is a term to categorize data that is openly accessible, freely used, re-used, modifiable, and can be redistributed; sometimes with the condition of attribution.

Open data is one of the principles of open science, a term interchangeable with open research or open scholarship. Open science is the movement to make scientific research accessible to all levels of society. [1] While the terms for "open" concepts are relatively new, these ideas are old. The movement arose out of the demand and desire from researchers to have access to shared resources opposing the concept that individuals should profit when others use their resources. [2] Other principles include: open methodology, open source, open access, open peer review, open educational resources, open engagement, and openness to diversity of knowledge. [3]

Why should I care about open data?

Open data can be a great resource, especially if the source is a government entity. Since government data tends to be public data, government agencies tend to be the greatest contributor. A wide variety of people and groups can benefit from open data, including the publishers themselves. The open data handbook lists the advantages of open data to be:

  • Transparency
  • Participation
  • Self-empowerment
  • Invention and innovation
  • Improved efficiency
  • Improved effectiveness

The open data movement has even changed the way research is funded and conducted. Research grants are requiring more detailed data management plans and applicants consent to ensuring their work research is open access. Below are some of the organizations that have open data and open access policies:

Where can I find open data?

Government open data is perhaps the simplest to find. Try searching based off location; for example the phrase "Las Vegas open data" will bring results such as the Las Vegas Open Data Portal. For a comprehensive list of open data resources visit our data and statistics page.

Here are some popular open data sites to check out!


[1]  Woelfle, M.; Olliaro, P.; Todd, M. H. (2011). "Open science is a research accelerator". Nature Chemistry3 (10): 745–748. Bibcode:2011NatCh...3..745Wdoi:10.1038/nchem.1149PMID 21941234.

[2] David, Paul A. (March 2004). "Can "Open Science" be Protected from the Evolving Regime of IPR Protections?". Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics160 (1): 9–34. doi:10.1628/093245604773861069JSTOR 40752435.

[3] Open Science Advisory Committee (February 17, 2021). "Towards a UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science: 5th meeting of the UNESCO Open Science Advisory Committee" United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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