In the European Union, public sector organisations must comply with the Open Data and Public Sector Information Directive (ODPSI) that came into force in July 2019. The Directive focuses on the economic aspects of the re-use of information and introduces the concept of high-value data sets. Earth observation and environment, which are the focus of many Citizen Observatories, are second in the thematic categories of high-value data sets. The Aarhus Convention (by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) focuses on access to environmental information by citizens. These policies shape the context in which your Citizen Observatory has to function and with which it must comply.
The Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) offers a single access point via its geoportal, connecting users to various environmental monitoring systems around the world while promoting the use of common technical standards to support their use. Similarly, the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) provides a virtual environment with open and seamless services for the storage, management, analysis and re-use of research data.
Integrating available resources with mechanisms like GEOSS and EOSC, and leveraging their data management and FAIR principles, gives us a simple way to deal with open data obligations and to access research data across different disciplines while also promoting the use of open solutions and common standards for data sharing.
GEOSS was developed by the Group on Earth Observation (GEO). GEO’s three Data Sharing Principles state that:
- there will be full and open exchange of data, metadata and products shared within GEOSS, recognising relevant international instruments and national policies and legislation;
- all shared data, metadata and products will be made available with a minimum time delay and at minimum cost; and
- all shared data, metadata and products are encouraged to be made available free of charge or at no more than reproduction cost for research and education.
The Open Data Institute (ODI) suggests that the general context for open data policy should first be developed, in order to define its scope. This should include:
- a definition of open data – why open data is important to the project and the reasons that a policy is needed;
- general principles to guide the release and reuse of open data;
- the types of data collected and whether they are covered by the policy; and
- references to relevant legislation, policies or other guidance that also apply to the management and sharing of information with third parties.
ODI has created a checklist of further policy elements to aid the development of open data policy:
- Data licensing and reuse rights
- Identifying and prioritising data for release
- Privacy considerations
- Data publishing standards
- Engaging with re-users
- Approach to consuming data
- Concrete commitments
- Policy transparency
ODI has also developed the Open Data Maturity Model, a tool for assessing the level at which an organisation utilises and shares open data. You can use this model, and also map your data practices, via the Open Data Pathway.