The University Calls for Greater Data Mobility

Changes must be made to copyright laws, data mining regulations and academic journal subscriptions so that data can be used more effectively for research and the solution of global challenges.

The Hague Declaration, signed by the University of Helsinki on 21 October 2015, calls for amendments to copyright legislation and for the elimination of obstacles to equal access to data.  Earlier in the month the University signed the statement on open access that the League of European Research Universities (LERU) addressed to the European Union.

Both statements hope to boost open science and information dissemination worldwide. 

“The University of Helsinki supports greater mobility of information, data and ideas,” says Keijo Hämäläinen, Vice-Rector in charge of research and education. 

“Open access to information and data benefits research and gives citizens more equal access to scientific information,” he adds.

“Even more important, though, is all the new information obtained from huge quantities of digital data, which until recently would have been impossible to detect,” Hämäläinen points out.

Legislation hinders mining

The recently signed Hague Declaration emphasises the importance of eliminating legislative obstacles to data use.

Information technology enables us to conduct data mining, which means processing huge amounts of data. However, in many countries legislation prevents this from being done optimally. Intellectual property rights and copyright legislation, for example, often hail from a time before modern data mining.

Nevertheless, large data volumes might contain the answers to some of humanity’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, health issues and the overuse of natural resources.

Data mining has already provided researchers with evidence of climate change forcing rainforest plant species to retreat gradually. This change observed in the area dubbed the “lungs of the world” is alarming, and would have gone unnoticed if researchers hadn’t compiled data masses from various sources.

The goal of the Hague Declaration is to put more and more data produced by society under the scope of free data mining. Anyone with legal access to data should automatically be allowed to use them for data mining.

Research funding streams to publishers

The LERU network of Europe’s foremost research universities, in turn, seeks to solve the tensions between open access and scientific publishers.

A large share of research funding flows into the pockets of publishers. Back in 2012, Harvard University announced it could no longer afford to pay the subscription fees for academic journals.

“If one of the wealthiest universities in the world can no longer afford it, who can?” wonders Professor Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General of LERU, in the League’s statement, and urges the academic community to give a strong signal to the EU.

Open publications are the cornerstone of research in the era of open science. They also form the foundation for fresh business models. Open access should definitely be highlighted when the Netherlands take over the EU Presidency in 2016.

The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age

“Christmas is over. Research funding should go to research, not to publishers!” (LERU 12.10.2015)

The Right to Read is the Right to Mine (LERU 19.10.2015)

Open research at the University of Helsinki

Open access at the University of Helsinki