The role of data in innovation

Research data is a critical input to future research and innovation.

To optimise the value of research, its outputs (such as data, software, methods, tools and publications) must be discoverable, accessible, and linked in a way that easily facilitates use, re-use, and application.

Discoverability and access to all research outputs will create the opportunity for validation of research through reproducibility. It also provides the foundation for new areas of research, discovery and innovation.

The Australian Government is taking action to make research outputs more accessible. Released in December 2015, the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement stipulates that Australian Government entities will:

  • make non-sensitive data open by default to contribute to greater innovation and productivity improvements across all sectors of the Australian economy;
  • where possible, make data available with free, easy to use, high quality and reliable Application Programming Interfaces (APIs);
  • make high-value data available for use by the public, industry and academia, in a manner that is enduring and frequently updated using high quality standards;
  • where possible, ensure non-sensitive publicly funded research data is made open for use and reuse

Upon the request of the Australian Government, the Productivity Commission undertook a 12-month public inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property system. The recently released report promotes a move away from data protection and towards greater data sharing.

Concurrently, the Commission launched a public inquiry into ‘data availability and use’, with a view to improving the availability and use of public and private sector data. The inquiry report is expected to be handed down in March.

The full economic potential for curating and openly sharing public research is as yet unrealised in Australia.

In a 2014 report to the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), Professor John Houghton and Dr Nicholas Gruen estimated that infrastructure and policy could unlock up to $4.9 billion per year as data becomes more usable and used.

The report shows that a relatively small investment in data policy and infrastructure could provide a significant increase in value to Australian innovation, research, and the broader economy.

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