New Paper: “Opening the Black Box of Scholarly Communication Funding: A Public Data Infrastructure for Financial Flows in Academic Publishing”

A journal article on scholarly communication finances which I co-authored with Stuart Lawson and Michele Mauri is now online at the Open Library of Humanities. It is titled “Opening the Black Box of Scholarly Communication Funding: A Public Data Infrastructure for Financial Flows in Academic Publishing” and the abstract is copied below.

While in this paper we have mainly focused on scholarly communication finances in the UK, we would like to continue to develop this research agenda in other countries. If you’re interested in collaborating, please do get in touch.

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New Paper: “OpenTrials: Towards a Collaborative Open Database of All Available Information on All Clinical Trials”

A few years ago, I had some discussions with the physician, academic and science writer Ben Goldacre which led to a collaboration on a new project called OpenTrials.

Clinical trials are conducted in order to generate information about the safety and effectiveness of a given medical treatment. This information is used to take decisions which can transform people’s lives. However research suggests that negative results are often withheld, and outcomes are often only selectively reported. OpenTrials aspires to address this by providing a collaborative database of public information about clinical trials, collated from a wide variety of different sources for and by patients, doctors, researchers, civil society groups, public institutions and others.

Ben and I have co-authored a paper which outlines what we hope to do with the OpenTrials project, which has just come out in the open access Trials journal published by BioMed Central. The abstract for the paper is copied below.

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New Report: “Changing What Counts: How Can Citizen-Generated and Civil Society Data Be Used as an Advocacy Tool to Change Official Data Collection?”

Changing What Counts

A new report that I co-authored for Open Knowledge and the CIVICUS DataShift initiative has just been released today, following on from a discussion paper I wrote on “Democratising the Data Revolution”.

It is titled “Changing What Counts: How Can Citizen-Generated and Civil Society Data Be Used as an Advocacy Tool to Change Official Data Collection?”, and contains seven case studies accompanied by a series of recommendations for civil society groups, public institutions and policy-makers. The case studies cover data collection initiatives around a wide variety of different topics – from literacy rates in East Africa to water access in Malawi, migration deaths in Europe to fracking pollution in the US. It was researched and written by myself, Danny Lämmerhirt and Liliana Bounegru.

We hope that it will contribute to advancing policies and practices to make public information systems more responsive to the interests and concerns of civil society. The full report can be downloaded here.

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Visiting Researcher at Sciences Po

For the next few months I’ll be a Visiting Researcher at Sciences Po in Paris, collaborating on several research initiatives with the médialab led by Professor Bruno Latour and the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA).

This will include mapping controversies around the taxation of multinational companies, as well as developing research on data infrastructures and the politics of public information.

medialab website

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Talk: “Ways of Seeing Data: Towards a Critical Literacy for Data Visualisations as Research Objects and Devices”, University of Amsterdam, 14th January 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 08.56.05

Yesterday I gave a presentation on “Ways of Seeing Data” at the Digital Methods Winter School Mini-Conference at the University of Amsterdam.

The presentation was based on a forthcoming publication co-authored with Liliana Bounegru, Stefania Milan and Paolo Ciuccarelli in which we propose a heuristic framework for advancing critical literacies to read, understand, create and work with data visualisations.

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New project on the Politics of Data at the University of Amsterdam

I’m part of a new research project called DATACTIVE: The Politics of Data According to Civil Society at the University of Amsterdam. The project is funded by the European Research Council and led by Stefania Milan who specialises in the study of social movements and their technologies.

The three main research questions of the project are as follows:

  1. How do citizens resist massive data collection by means of technical fixes (re-active data activism)?
  2. How do social movements use big data to foster social change (pro-active data activism)?
  3. How does data activism affect the dynamics of transnational civil society, and transnational advocacy networks in particular?

I will largely focus on the second question, building on my research on the politics of public information – including on open data, data journalism, data activism and transparency after the “digital turn”. This will incorporate a combination of empirical, historical and theoretical research to critically study and contribute to rethinking the politics of data.

This research will also inform my work to advance a more ambitious civil society agenda around reshaping data infrastructures as Director of Policy and Research at Open Knowledge.

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Making Climate Negotiations Public

This piece was originally published in Open Democracy on 9th December 2015. It was co-authored with Tommaso Venturini and Rufus Pollock.

COP21 negotiations in Paris

World leaders are currently gathered in Paris in order to coordinate action around climate change. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of our planet will depend on what they decide.

But how much will the rest of us learn about the circumstances of these decisions to determine our collective fate? Will the deliberations be made public – so that civil society groups can hold decision-makers democratically accountable for their commitments? Or will what happens in Paris effectively stay in Paris?

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Interview for The Guardian on Why Open Data Doesn’t Mean Open Government

I was recently interviewed for a piece in The Guardian about “Why open data doesn’t mean open government”. Here’s the section of the interview from which the article quotes:

It is critical to remember the distinction between ‘open data’ and ‘open government’. Open data is a way to remove legal and technical barriers to using digital information. This data can be used by civil society groups, journalists or civic hackers in the service of public interest campaigning, reportage or civic tech projects.

But publishing open data is of course not sufficient for open governments or open societies. It is just one ingredient in the mix – and no replacement for other vital elements of democratic societies like robust access to information laws, whistleblower protections and rules to protect freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of assembly. And it isn’t just autocratic regimes who neglect these other elements. Just look at the recent treatment of whistleblowers and leakers, or concerns around the UK government’s proposals for amending FOI laws.

While some governments may see open data initiatives as an easy way to demonstrate their democratic credentials, at Open Knowledge we are interested in advancing a more ambitious, progressive civil society agenda around open data. We are interested in going beyond the disclosure of existing datasets as open data – towards looking at how civil society groups might be able to change what is measured in the first place. If one can compare official data collection to photography, we’re interested in not only who has access to the pictures, but what the camera captures and (when it comes to personal information for example) what it doesn’t capture.

For more on the distinction between open data and open government see, for example, Harlan Yu and David Robinson’s paper on this topic for the UCLA Law Review.

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New Report: “Open Budget Data: Mapping the Landscape”

Open Budget Data

How might changing the way that information about public money is organised, circulated and utilised in society shape the character of democratic engagement and political accountability in decision-making about public funds?

How are ideals from the open data movement gaining traction amongst advocates and practitioners of financial transparency, to what end, and with what consequences? What are the politics of the emerging issue of open budget data?

In order to begin to address these and other questions I led work on a research report on “Open Budget Data: Mapping the Landscape”, undertaken as a collaboration between Open Knowledge, the Global Initiative for Financial Transparency and the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam.

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Animated GIF of Wassily Kandinsky’s “Analysis of Still Life”, 1929-30

Animated GIF of Wassily Kandinsky’s “Analysis of Still Life” (1929-30), Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin.

Kandinsky's Analysis of Still Life, 1929-30

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  • Jonathan Gray is Researcher at the University of Amsterdam and Director of Policy and Research at Open Knowledge. More about his work can be found here. He is on Twitter at @jwyg.