The Hill Times ran a special section this week on innovation policy (Hill Times version as full PDF, homepage version) that included a contribution from me about the need to free government data and embrace open access for federally funded research as part of that strategy. I note that last month's Speech from the Throne committed to “support Canadian researchers and innovators in developing new ideas and bringing them to the marketplace through Canada's Science and Technology Strategy.” While prioritizing innovation and research is welcome news, politicians and policy makers must recognize that maximizing the value of Canada's investment in research requires far more than tax breaks and improved accountability mechanisms. Instead, Ottawa should rethink how publicly-funded scientific data and research results flow into the hands of researchers, businesses, and individuals.
This requires action on two fronts. First, the government should identify the raw, scientific data currently under its control and set it free. Implementing expensive or onerous licensing conditions for this publicly-funded data runs counter to the goals of commercialization and to government accountability for taxpayer expenditures. Second, Ottawa should pressure the three federal research granting institutions to emphasize their role in unlocking innovation by building open access requirements into their research mandates.