Statement on Openness of Economic Data and Code
Economic research is based on building on, reusing and openly criticising the published body of economic knowledge. Furthermore, empirical economic research and data play a central role for policy-making in many important areas of our economies and societies.
Openness enables and underpins scholarly enquiry and debate, and is crucial in ensuring the reproducibility of economic research and analysis. Thus, for economics to function effectively, and for society to reap the full benefits from economic research, it is therefore essential that economic research results, data and analysis be openly and freely available, wherever possible.
- Open by default: by default data in its different stages and formats, program code, experimental instructions and metadata – all of the evidence used by economists to support underlying claims – should be open as per the Open Definition1, free for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute. Specifically open material should be publicly available and licensed with an appropriate open license2.
- Privacy and confidentiality: We recognise that there are often cases where for reasons of privacy, national security and commercial confidentiality the full data cannot be made openly available. In such cases researchers should share analysis under the least restrictive terms consistent with legal requirements, and abiding by the research ethics and guidelines of their community. This should include opening up non-sensitive data, summary data, metadata and code; and facilitating access if the owner of the original data grants other researchers permission to use the data.
- Reward structures and data citation: recognizing the importance of data and code to the discipline, reward structures should be established in order to recognise these scholarly contributions with appropriate credit and citation in an acknowledgement that producing data and code with the documentation that make them reusable by others requires a significant commitment of time and resources. At minimum, all data necessary to understand, assess, or extend conclusions in scholarly work should be cited. Acknowledgements of research funding, traditionally limited to publications, could be extended to research data and contribution of data curators should be recognised.
- Data availability: Investigators should share their data by the time of publication of initial results of analyses of the data, except in compelling circumstances. Data relevant to public policy should be shared as quickly and widely as possible. Funders, journals and their editorial boards should put in place and enforce data availability policies requiring data, code and any other relevant information to be made openly available as soon as possible and at latest upon publication. Data should be in a machine-readable format, with well-documented instructions, and distributed: through institutions that have demonstrated the capability to provide long-term stewardship and access. This will enable other researchers to replicate empirical results.
- Publicly funded data should be open: publicly funded research work that generates or uses data should ensure that the data is open, free to use, reuse and redistribute under an open license – and specifically, it should not be kept unavailable or sold under a proprietary license. Funding agencies and organizations disbursing public funds have a central role to play and should establish policies and mandates that support these principles, including appropriate costs for long-term data availability in the funding of research and the evaluation of such policies3, and independent funding for systematic evaluation of open data policies and use.
- Usable and discoverable: as simply making data available may not be sufficient for reusing it, data publishers and repository managers should endeavour to also make the data usable and discoverable by others for example: documentation, the use of standard code lists, etc., all help make data more interoperable and reusable and submission of the data to standard registries and of common metadata enable greater discoverability.
Reasons and Background
Reproducibility: For economic research to be reliable and trusted, it should be possible to scrutinise and reproduce research findings. This is difficult, or impossible, if data and analysis is not made available. Making material openly available reduces to a minimum the barriers for doing reproducible research.
Knowledge as a public good: Data and code should be viewed as a public good, with the greatest benefit coming where it is available freely and openly. Publicly funded research is done in the public interest and should be openly available for the public to access.
Stability and effectiveness of markets: Transparent and available information can be central to well-functioning markets. The best way to ensure transparency and that information is available to all relevant parties, including regulators and researchers, is to make data open.
Public engagement and trust: Economics and specifically economic data and analysis, plays an important role in many areas of policy-making that directly affect all members of our societies. As such, public engagement and trust are important and openness is central to gaining and retaining trust and increasing engagement.
Potential new uses of the data: In many cases the best use of data may ultimately be found outside of its immediate use and making data available may generate new research and create new knowledge. By making material open we ensure that experimentation is easy and that it can be easily reused and repurposed.
Equitable access: Researchers and research institutions from around the world, including the Global South, can access economic research, data and analysis with no discrimination about their affiliation, research purpose or ability to pay for access.
Higher impact of research: Making economic research and data openly available delivers better dissemination of research outcomes and enhances the visibility and the impact of research.
Democratisation of economics research: Much of economic research is done with the purpose of improving the economy, policies and institutions. Open economic research will lead to higher citizen engagement leading to better policies and better lives.
Better resources for education and training: The opening up of economic research aids in the education of a new generation of economists and social scientists who will be able to produce high quality research.
Better service delivery and new business models: Open data can improve the quality and consistency of the public services by exposing inefficiencies and corruption and delivering new ideas on the effective use of public resources. It can also result in better integration of supply chains, harness innovation and revolutionise business models and stimulate entrepreneurship, generating knowledge externalities in the economy.
1. http://opendefinition.org/↩ 2. Open licenses for code are those conformant with the Open Source Definition see http://opensource.org/licenses and open licenses for data should be conformant with the open definition, see http://opendefinition.org/licenses/#Data.↩ 3. A good example of an important positive developments in this direction from the United States is http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf ↩