Poll: Should information generated from government funded projects be publicly available?

Should any and all information generated with government funding be publicly ava
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(2 votes)
Should any and all information generated with government funding be publicly available?
Yes
73.9% (207 votes)
No
10% (28 votes)
Maybe
16.1% (45 votes)

What do you think? Does the information paid for by taxes in a democracy belong to the people who helped pay for it? Or maybe governments have a right to keep secrets and an interest in doing so--everything can't be open.

Perhaps information generated in universities like statistics or scientific data should be available, but not the results of reports or investigations that rely on the promise of privacy or anonymity to get accurate results.

Maybe you think that some information has commercial value. If the private sector can make money from it, does it need to be protected from the public until it can be monetized? Things like drugs or nano technology, developed in public universities, for example.

Chime in on the comments.

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10 Comments

Unidentified's picture

If the public dollar finances it the public should receive the full benefit from it.

Mike A.'s picture

The Manhattan Project and techniques for weaponizing Anthrax were also funded by the public. Should these techniques be publicly available? I don't think so. I believe that there will always be research that needs to be done to be better able to protect/defend the public that shouldn't be released to the world at large. Releasing it on the Internet because it was Gov't funded is the same as handing it to our enemies.

Unidentified's picture

The default should be to release the data. This is particularly true where commercial benefit is possible. If the public funded creation of the data than that data should not be given to entities for profit (they may use it, under the same public domain rules as everyone else). For publicly funded educational and research institutions, the use of partial private funding does not change the mandate to release (although 100% privately funded, including all overheads, research may remain private).
The release of data may be prevented if privacy or national security requires it, but this should be very rare and subject to court challenge.

Unidentified's picture

Couldn't have said it better than this.

R.b.'s picture

Mostly yes (and I voted so), but I imagine that one could find cases where full disclosure would not be the best option (e.g., data with privacy concerns). Especially if "not publicly available" means "secret for the economic benefit of some actor," then my opinion is that data should be accessible by anyone. Note that, for example, in European projects (if I remember correctly), there is not an obligation of making public the information and industrial partners can decide to keep it reserved.

jhibbets's picture

R.b.,
We talked a lot about the privacy aspects of this. Particularly around healthcare data for individuals, things like social security numbers, and even national security. I agree, if it's publicly funded, the data should be available. The next question is, should we force it to be published in open formats?

Jason

Julio Martinez's picture

If we (the citizenships) are the ones who elect the governments (give them the power to govern us), and we pay taxes so the govenrnments give a wise use then the least they must do is give us all the information of how and where that money and power is being used.

Jacob's picture

In most cases yes the information that comes from the public dollar should be available to the public. In all cases the public has a right to know what their money is being spent on. For example the Manhattan project that was mentioned earlier. I agree that the full knowledge that was gained from that shouldn't be made public. But the project it self should be public knowledge.

Unidentified's picture

Answer "It depends!" - what information classification and context are you talking of here? there are numerous cases where Justice and Health Sector data would not and should not be made available to the general public.

That said, the public does have a right to services that are shown to be adding VALUE to the citizen and are being measure and managed like a private entity would in a competitive market - from a holistic sector point of view, not just point agencies measuing their own successes (of lack thereof). This is where all the blocks fall down - no shared vision of the citizen value chain. If sector services are not measurable, are not proven to be citizen value added, and process / waste optimised with hard evidence of the fact, then I have realy problems with govt spending. Show us the data or make it available so the larger (social) population can model and help.

C Silver's picture

At one time, NIST, Fermi, CERN, and Livermore had accessible data tables for specific physical constants for individual elements. These constants, Brehmstrahlung, are essential shortcuts for research, but were removed from public access. Private research is thus considered public - thereby lumping all non-governmental enterprise into the "outsiders' category. A request for data must be accompanied by a full disclosure of purpose. What private research company would jeopardize potentially profitable intellectual product?
While these constants may be obtained by anyone with enough time and money to repeat the studies, it is not economically feasible for small companies to shoulder that expense.
The belief that data from public-funded research be made available seems a justifiable reaction to an overly zealous trend that could, by the same measure, consider the Periodic Table fair game.