Open Access to Data – the 2017 version of the DNRF annual meeting

On November 3rd, the Danish National Research Foundation’s annual meeting was held for research political stakeholders and DNRF licensees. The topic for the meeting was “Open Data”.
The Foundation’s recommendation is that all stakeholders collaborate in developing a thought-out strategy for Open Data, which will be based on the aims that topic-relevant initiatives should both strengthen the research and secure each researcher’s possibilities at the same time. Several researchers took the floor at the meeting and shared both foreign experiences, experiences within natural science, humanities and social sciences from the Foundation’s centers and research political actors. These were shared to deliberate how we solve the significant challenges that when it comes to financing and maintaining the databases.

The Foundation’s publication Open access to data – It’s not that simple marked the tone for a critical analytical stance to the subject. The politically simple opinion about open data not being sound per definition is not appropriate, and there are too many challenges that we simply cannot ignore.

Professor Liselotte Højgaard, Chair of the DNRF opened the meeting with an appeal to get all stakeholders to collaborate in increasing the access to data in a smart way. First and foremost, we must listen to researchers and data managers who know how to collect, share, store and reuse data. When asking them about possibilities and challenges for open data, it is distinctive how the list over challenges is twice the length of the list over possibilities.

You can read more about the meeting and the Open Access debate on

“The digital revolution is an exceptional possibility for raising the research quality standards, but it is a challenge to utilize it wisely. One challenge is to secure a fair treatment of the individual researcher that collects data, and to open data to let society benefit from it at the same time” said Professor Liselotte Højgaard.

The Minister of Education and Science, Søren Pind, spoke for investigating what incentives that make researchers share data and use those as a benchmark to make sharing data interesting. The minister shared the Foundation’s opinion about handling the question about open data in a critical way.

One of the challenges that Professor Søren-Peter Olesen, Director of the DNRF, used his speech about the Foundation’s Open Data Survey to address is the fact that newspapers largely request raw data when publishing articles. It is not ideal that the newspapers come to own data this way.


What is data and how can we get knowledge from data?
”It is infinitely easier to generate data than to get knowledge out of it” – professor Mathias Uhlén, Wallenberg Center for Protein Research.

Are these potsherds data? Yes, they are, and although potsherds are not the first thing you assimilate with data, the picture illustrates many of the challenges that is connected to collecting, sharing and storing data. The number of potsherds on the picture alone tells us what resources are needed to annotate every sherd, and furthermore how to store and digitalize them in a way that lets others benefit from them. This is the case for data in general.

A million sherds have been registered in relation to an excavation project in Jaresh, and data will be made publicly accessible along with a publication of the results from the project lead by Professor Rubina Raja, Centre for Urban Network Evolutions.

Who owns data and who shall pay for storing the data?

”Sharing was always upon us, digitalization just makes it easier, and unfortunately endless” said principal of the University of Copenhagen, Henrik C. Wegener. At the meeting he used his speech to highlight the fact that the most important job for the universities is to create the very best conditions for researching and researchers. Previously on, this would mean to establish and run libraries, and today the case is almost the same; which is to digitalize information/data and establish high performance facilities for data processing. The overshadowing challenge is the expenses for doing so. Wegener does not see how it will benefit to be first mover on the area, especially because the risk of making a bad investment is intimidating.


It’s not that simple
The director of the Danish Agency for Science and Education, Hans Müller Pedersen, also joined the mantra of the meeting: “It’s not that simple”. The agency looks forward to seeing the results of its cost-benefit analysis of the introduction of FAIR data in Denmark, and along with the Foundation’s survey the analysis will serve as the kick-off for the agency’s further work with open science.

The possibilities for Danish research and innovation
Both Lia Leffland, ATV, and Linus Jönnson, Lundbeck, highlighted the fact that the quality of Danish data is very high and that the data contains an unexploited potential for Danish research and innovation. Lia Leffland emphasized the fact that the DNRF’s Centers of Excellence should have leading roles in preparing PhD’s and postdocs for entering the companies, where data is money and where they can contribute with their highly specialized knowledge to elevate the innovative level and the earnings.

Motivation is key
The debating panel ended the meeting by concluding that motivation is key to get more high-quality research from sharing data. There should be made a collaborative effort to reduce the barriers; the challenges with a long-term funding of data and how to store it. This along with the need to be able to distinguish between the different kinds of data and understand that the needs are partly dependent of the subject areas.