Are we entering a “Data Winter”?

Article by Stefaan G. Verhulst: “In an era where data drives decision-making, the accessibility of data for public interest purposes has never been more crucial. Whether shaping public policy, responding to disasters, or empowering research, data plays a pivotal role in our understanding of complex social, environmental, and economic issues. In 2015, I introduced the concept of Data Collaboratives to advance new and innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors that could make data more accessible for public interest purposes. More recently, I have been advocating for a reimagined approach to data stewardship to make data collaboration more systematic, agile, sustainable, and responsible.

We may be entering a “Data Winter”

Despite many advances toward data stewardship (especially during Covid19) and despite the creation of several important data collaboratives (e.g., the Industry Data for Society Partnership) the project of opening access to data is proving increasingly challenging. Indeed, unless we step up our efforts in 2024, we may be entering a prolonged data winter — analogous to previous Artificial Intelligence winters, marked by reduced funding and interest in AI research, in which data assets that could be leveraged for the common good are instead frozen and immobilized. Recent developments, such as a decline in access to social media data for research and the growing privatization of climate data, along with a decrease in open data policy activity, signify a worrying trend. This blog takes stock of these developments and, building on some recent expert commentary, raises a number of concerns about the current state of data accessibility and its implications for the public interest. We conclude by calling for a new Decade of Data — one marked by a reinvigorated commitment to open data and data reuse for the public interest…(More)”

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