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Research Data Management: Open Data

What is Open Data?

Open Data is data that anyone can access, use and share. Open Data challenges intelligent and creative minds to provide societal value. Open Data applications allow us to make better use of existing resources and create new products and services. Open Data is also one of the cornerstones of Open Science, a concept central to science practitioners and policy makers of today, promoting (re)use of research data and results amongst scientists, the business community and society as a whole.

Recent applications of Open Data can be found throughout academia, industry and society. Not all data can be made freely available however. Privacy and intellectual property rights have to be respected.

  1. Open datasets may not contain information which allows for the identification of persons or households.
  2. Another limitation for publishing Open Data - of particular importance for academics - is database copyright. It is not allowed to publish substantial portions of licensed databases and content.

Further practical guidance (in Dutch) for compliance with requirements for making (research) data openly available is available from the Dutch National Data portal. The Research Data Management pages in MyEUR has information about the services and context at the EUR.

Open Data and academic research

In academia, Open Data are used in humanities and cultural heritage research communities (e.g. Journal of Open Humanities Data (JOHD)Europeana); Open Data are also common in the life sciences (e.g. Elixer) and in economics (e.g. World Bank). Some open datasets can be useful to explore societally relevant questions relevant to current policy debates and topics of interest to specific demographics. Open Data is also important for educational purposes (e.g., see Bishop & Kuula-Luumi, 2017). 

Sharing and making data openly available for re-use could also be beneficial for your career. A growing number of academic journals have adopted an Open Data policy. Recent studies also estimate ~25% citation advantage for articles with data available via direct link (e.g. Colavizza et al., 2020).

If you want to know more about making your work openly available, visit the Open Science Framework website. The value of Open Data in science is excellently illustrated in Science as an open enterprise (report) and PLOS biology.

Open Data applications

Open Data helps to create (new) value for societies, citizens and businesses. There are now several examples of successful startups with innovative applications of Open Data. Appealing examples are available in health, transport, energy and the environmental sector (see ODINE for examples).

In the public sector both governments and local authorities stimulate the use of Open Data. Data sources of interest are the OECD with Open Government Data, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and The latter contains a themed collection of Open Data sources and example applications from the UK.

I want to work with Open Data. Where to start, who to contact?

A good starting point for information and inspiration on “all things” Open Data is the Open Data Handbook. This online handbook provides case studies, learning resources and networked information on Open Data.

Three other key resources to start with Open Data are the European Union Open Data Portal, the Open Data Institute (ODI) and specific to Netherlands, The Dutch National Data portal.

If you want to identify and keep up to date with best practice applications for Open Data, subscribe to the newsletter of the Open Data Incubator Europe (ODINE).

Skilling up for Open Data

It certainly helps if you can code, but programming is not a prerequisite to work with Open Data. Being creative and knowing that it takes a team and hard work to transform a good idea into a product or service is essential. A combination of hard and soft skills is an ideal combination. Drawing inspiration from successful Open Data applications is really what it takes to make a head start. Fortunately, ideas are in abundance and Open Data applications are available for all sectors and industries; fintech, solar energy, smart cities, mining, surrounding environment quality, health, education and citizen science. More information on e-skills for working with Open Data is available from the European Data Portal: Analytical report 2: E-skills and Open data.


We’d love to hear about your ideas for working with Open Data. Please come and visit the EDSC at Y1-14, Polak Building, to share your ideas with us.


If you want to know more about Open Data applications and initiatives at the EUR, contact the Erasmus Data Service Centre (EDSC)