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Learned societies should lead the way to open science

With every discipline taking its own approach to sharing data, tailored approaches will be more useful than top-down prescriptions, argue Sabina Leonell and Barbara Prainsack.

The European Commission’s commitment to open science has been instrumental in focusing international attention on data dissemination policies and their ability to support scientific and technological advances. This was clear from the attention devoted to open data in the Commission’s consultation on Science 2.0, the results of which were released this spring. 

There are limits, however, to what high-level policy mandates can achieve. The teething troubles faced by initiatives such as Elixir, a €200-million investment to integrate large sets of molecular and cellular data, reveal the limits of a top-down approach. The broad scope and standardisation required by such a project are hard to relate to the highly diverse and specialised terminologies, methods and data formats in use among the researchers involved.

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