Open Science and Public Sector Information – Reconsidering the exemption for educational and research establishments under the Directive on re-use of public sector information

Author : Heiko Richter

The article discusses the possibilities of including public research and educational establishments within the scope of the Directive regulating the re-use of public sector information (2003/98/EC – ‘PSI Directive’).

It subsequently evaluates the legal consequences of such an inclusion. Focusing on scientific information, the analysis connects the long-standing debates about open access and open educa-tion to open government data.

Their common driving force is the call for a wide-spread dissemination of publicly funded information. However, the regulatory standard set out by the PSI Directive is characterized by considerable legal uncer-tainty.

Therefore, it is difficult to derive robust assumptions that can form the ba-sis for predicting the effects of extending the PSI Directive’s scope to research in-formation. A potential revision of the PSI Directive should reduce this uncertain-ty.

Moreover, PSI regulation must account for the specific incentives linked to the creation and dissemination of research results.

This seems of primary importance for public-private research collaborations because there is a potential risk that a full application of the PSI Directive might unduly affect incentives for such col-laborations.


The State of Open Data in Europe

Opening up government data to the public has been part of the European policy agenda since the introduction of the PSI directive in 2003. European Member States continue to lean towards a cautious approach of making their data available to citizens.

This is partly caused by conflicting legal frameworks, cultural norms and the idea to recover the costs of data production. At the same time and inspired by activities in the U.S. and UK, the open data movement has emerged in many countries around the globe. They have a simple demand: Government agencies should put as much of their data online as possible in a machine-readable format so that everyone can re-use it since they were paid for by taxes.

This study analyses the current state of the open data policy ecosystem and open government data offerings in nine European Member States. Since none of the countries studied currently offers a national open data
portal, this study compares the statistics offices’ online data offerings.

The analysis shows that they fulfill a number of open data principles but that there is still a lot of room for improvement. This study underlines that the development of data catalogues and portals should not be seen as means to an end.