Press room

Giovanni Ortolani
Public Information Officer
Via Beirut, 6
Enrico Fermi Building, Room 112
Office: +39 040 2240-324

Cristina Serra
Staff writer
Via Beirut, 6
Enrico Fermi Building, Room 113
Phone: +39 040 2240-429
Mobile: +39 338 430-5210

Sean Treacy
Staff Writer
Via Beirut, 6
Enrico Fermi Building, Room T8/2
Office: +39 040 2240-538

General contact:

TWAS Newsletter
The Academy's quarterly magazine. Download PDF files of individual…

New coalition: Big Data/Open Data

New coalition: Big Data/Open Data

"Big data" is transforming research, and the values of "open data" can assure that the developing world is part of this effort. Now TWAS and IAP have joined a team of major international science organizations to provide important research and policy insight.

Science International is a new coalition of the major international science bodies – the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) – to bring its members’ combined international representation and credibility to act as a global voice of policy for science. At its first meeting, to be held from 7-9 December in Pretoria, South Africa, the participating institutions will discuss the topic of big data/open data.

"Big data" has emerged as a major opportunity for scientific discovery, while "open data" will enhance the efficiency, productivity and creativity of the public research enterprise and counteract tendencies towards the privatisation of knowledge. In addition, concurrent open publication of the data underpinning scientific papers can provide the basis of scientific self-correction. Efforts by organisations, individuals and society to maximise the benefits of big data, however, will depend on the extent to which there is open access to publicly funded scientific data.

In this regard, there are a growing number of calls from various quarters, both within and outside the scientific community, and from inter-governmental bodies such as the G8, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations, for open access to publicly funded scientific data, especially regarding data of particular importance to major global challenges.

Full exploitation of "big data", however, will also depend on the extent to which national science systems are able to develop the capacity to use it, on avoiding the creation of new knowledge divides, and on deciding which data can be made open for use and re-use.
 "Big Data/Open Data" will therefore be the subject of the first meeting of Science International, to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, from 7-9 December 2015. The meeting will be hosted by South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and held in parallel with the first South African Open Science Forum and the Ministerial Forum of the G77 + China.

At the meeting, the Science International partner organizations will agree on an international science accord on Big Data/Open Data. The accord will be prepared by an expert working group jointly appointed by the partner organizations and will be presented in Pretoria at the G77 + China Ministerial Forum and the Open Science Forum.

The meeting will also recommend a global plan for data science capacity development, with an initial focus on Africa.

Objectives of the accord

  • Develop and advance an internationally agreed set of principles and associated processes that will help to ensure that data remains open to review and widely available. This will maximise the creativity and productivity of national and international science systems and help ensure the transparency of the research enterprise.
  • Seek the support of national governments, research councils, academies, scientific publishers, donor foundations and other scientific institutions for the principles expressed in this accord.
  • Provide a set of guidelines that can form the basis of a new capacity-development effort on open data in developing and emerging countries.

Expert working group

The following researchers have agreed to participate in the expert working group, which will lead the process of drafting the Big Data/Open Data accord:

  • Chair: Geoffrey Boulton (president, CODATA)
  • Dominique Babini (coordinator, open access programme department, Latin American Council of Social Sciences - CLACSO)
  • Simon Hodson (executive director, CODATA)
  • Jianhui Li (Computer Network Information Centre, Chinese Academy of Sciences, representing IAP, the global network of science academies)
  • Tshilidzi Marwala (University of Johannesburg, South Africa, representing TWAS)
  • Maria Musoke (Makere University, Uganda, representing IAP, the global network of science academies)
  • Sally Wyatt (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences).
  • Paul Uhlir (independent consultant, formerly National Academy of Sciences, USA).

This core group will be assisted by a wider network of expert "readers" identified from among the members and networks of the Science International partner organizations.