Stefaan Verhulst with Danny Lämmerhirt: Toward a user-centric and interdisciplinary research agenda to advance open data.

Andrew Young — October 17, 2016

In a new blog post on for the International Open Data Conference (IODC) website, Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst and Danny Lämmerhirt of Open Knowledge International report back on their conference ‘action track’ on Measurement and Increasing Impact. The action track “sought to review the need and role of research for (scaling) open data practice and policy” and was “informed by the various sessions and workshops that took place at the Open Data Research Symposium prior to the Conference.”

Verhulst and Lämmerhirt focus in particular on four areas of discussion and potential next steps raised during IODC and the preceding research symposium:  “

Demand and use: First, many expressed a need to become smarter about the demand and use-side of open data. Much of the focus, given the nascent nature of many initiatives around the world, has been on the supply-side of open data. Yet to be more responsive and sustainable more insight needs to be gained to the demand and/or user needs.” “

Informing data supply and infrastructure : Second, we heard on numerous occasions, a call upon researchers and domain experts to help in identifying ‘key data’ and inform the government data infrastructure needed to provide them. Principle 1 of the International Open Data Charter states that governments should provide key data ‘open by default’, yet the questions remains in how to identify ‘key’ data (e.g., would that mean data relevant to society at large?).” “

Impact : In addition to those two focus areas – covering the supply and demand side –  there was also a call to become more sophisticated about impact. Too often impact gets confused with outputs, or even activities. Given the embryonic and iterative nature of many open data efforts, signals of impact are limited and often preliminary. In addition, different types of impact (such as enhancing transparency versus generating innovation and economic growth) require different indicators and methods. At the same time, to allow for regular evaluations of what works and why there is a need for common assessment methods that can generate comparative and directional insights.” “

Research Networking : Several researchers identified a need for better exchange and collaboration among the research community. This would allow to tackle the research questions and challenges listed above, as well as to identify gaps in existing knowledge, to develop common research methods and frameworks and to learn from each other. Key questions posed involved: how to nurture and facilitate networking among researchers and (topical) experts from different disciplines, focusing on different issues or using different methods? How are different sub-networks related or disconnected with each other (for instance how connected are the data4development; freedom of information or civic tech research communities)? In addition, an interesting discussion emerged around how researchers can also network more with those part of the respective universe of analysis – potentially generating some kind of participatory research design.”

Read more here.