Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tracking the openness of databases

Shirley Fung has launched  Molecular Biology Databases, a website to evaluate the openness of databases in molecular biology.  (Thanks to Donna Wentworth.)  From the site:

This work is being developed under the auspices of the Science Commons Data project and builds upon the Science Commons Open Access Data Protocol proposing requirements for interoperability of scientific data. Legal simplicity and predictability can be achieved by waiving copyright and other contractual restrictions, allowing data integrators to reuse, modify and redistribute large datasets. Legal accessibility issues are not the only hurdle to data integration. Technical Open Access should be ensured in order to allow scientists to download data easily and use them in any way, including ways that initial creators are not considered. The objective of this project is to assess the accessibility of databases by analysing their interfaces to access data and their reuse policies in order to identify those that are in the public domain, starting with databases hosted by the Life Science Resource Name (LSRN) Schema registry.

Fung evaluates 34 databases to date, under six criteria:  Downloadable, Offers Batch Processing, Offers a Query Interface, No Registration Required, Policy is Available, Public Domain.  Her website supports the open-data research of Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, described last week by Ethan Zuckerman (and blogged here).

Comment.  This is a very time-consuming but useful job.  Everyone in molecular biology should be grateful, especially if the project leads to more consistent policies on open data across the field.