Special Topics in Information Studies: Open Data: Government and Research


This course will give you the opportunity to develop a working knowledge of the open data concept. Democratic societies, such as Canada, and scientific researchers recognize that the provision of open access to data is a public good and an essential characteristic of good science. As a result, in many countries federal and local governments, and research funders are increasingly working to put policy frameworks in place to facilitate public access to data and associated metadata for use by both private citizens, researchers, and not-for-profit and commercial organizations. This vision is encapsulated in the concept of “open data,” which are data that citizens can discover, “acquire”, use, and share. Effectively used open data enables citizens to tap public information resources which can enable them to contribute to social activism through using the analysis of data to underpin the questioning of public policy, to create new information services, and even to produce economic value and make new businesses. The concept of open data extends to data produced by researchers; here access to research data is essential to support reviews of research integrity, data reuse, and studies where of change over-time.

As information professionals you will want to be able both to use open data sets and to be able to support their use by others. In developing our appreciation of open data and its socio-political significance we will examine data creation, management, and reuse through investigating the organizations and institutions engaged in the process.

In this course you will develop an understanding as to how to use both government and research open data personally and professionally and to support others to use it for such purposes as enabling political activism and assessing research integrity and conducting meta-analyses. At the end of the course you should have gained an awareness of the boundaries between open and closed (private) data, have developed an appreciation of public policy on open data in Canada at federal, provincial and municipal levels, have attained an understanding of the issues and processes associated with research data, have acquired an understanding as to how to assess the potential uses to which open data can be put, and have experience discovering and obtaining open data. In the course you will identify an open access data set, acquire it, consider the rights issues associated with it, assess its usability, its data and technical quality, consider how you might approach data cleaning and error assessment, and define the kinds of technical support you would need to put in place to work with the particular data set. The course will involve hands-on engagement with both government and research data.

Note: Pending Approval