Commons News

Obama issues Executive Order in support of open data

Timothy Vollmer, May 10th, 2013

Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order requiring federal government information to be open and machine-readable by default. This Order is the latest in a series of actions going back to 2009 in support of increasing access to and transparency of government information.

In addition to the Executive Order, the White House released a Memorandum (PDF) explaining how federal government agencies will comply with the new open data policy.

This Memorandum requires agencies to collect or create information in a way that supports downstream information processing and dissemination activities. This includes using machine­ readable and open formats, data standards, and common core and extensible metadata for all new information creation and collection efforts. It also includes agencies ensuring information stewardship through the use of open licenses and review of information for privacy, confidentiality, security, or other restrictions to release.

It provides a forward-thinking set of guidelines for open data to be released by U.S. federal agencies:

Open data: For the purposes of this Memorandum, the term “open data” refers to publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users. In general, open data will be consistent with the following principles:

  • Public. Consistent with OMB’s Open Government Directive, agencies must adopt a presumption in favor of openness to the extent permitted by law and subject to privacy, confidentiality, security, or other valid restrictions.
  • Accessible. Open data are made available in convenient, modifiable, and open formats that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched. Formats should be machine-readable (i.e., data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing). Open data structures do not discriminate against any person or group of persons and should be made available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes, often by providing the data in multiple formats for consumption. To the extent permitted by law, these formats should be non-proprietary, publicly available, and no restrictions should be placed upon their use.
  • Described. Open data are described fully so that consumers of the data have sufficient information to understand their strengths, weaknesses, analytical limitations, security requirements, as well as how to process them. This involves the use of robust, granular metadata (i.e., fields or elements that describe data), thorough documentation of data elements, data dictionaries, and, if applicable, additional descriptions of the purpose of the collection, the population of interest, the characteristics of the sample, and the method of data collection.
  • Reusable. Open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.
  • Complete. Open data are published in primary forms (i.e., as collected at the source), with the finest possible level of granularity that is practicable and permitted by law and other requirements. Derived or aggregate open data should also be published but must reference the primary data.
  • Timely. Open data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data. Frequency of release should account for key audiences and downstream needs.
  • Managed Post-Release. A point of contact must be designated to assist with data use and to respond to complaints about adherence to these open data requirements.

The Memorandum provides some more information about how U.S. government information will be made reusable:

Ensure information stewardship through the use of open licenses – Agencies must apply open licenses, in consultation with the best practices found in Project Open Data, to information as it is collected or created so that if data are made public there are no restrictions on copying, publishing, distributing, transmitting, adapting, or otherwise using the information for non-commercial or for commercial purposes.

Depending on the exact implementation details, this could be a fantastic move that would remove any legal confusion about using federal government data. By leveraging open licenses, the U.S. federal government would be doing a great service to reusers by communicating those rights available in advance. And, if the U.S. truly wishes to make federal government information available without restriction, it could consider using a tool such as the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC0 is used by many data providers to place open data directly in the public domain. We’ve already suggested this (PDF) as an option for sharing federally funded research data.

The White House should be commended for taking another positive step forward to ensure that U.S. government data is made legally and technically accessible and useable.

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Free Wikipedia course offered through the School of Open

Jane Park, May 6th, 2013

Have you ever looked at an article on Wikipedia and thought, “this could really use some work”? With the free online course “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond,” offered through the School of Open, you have the opportunity to take the next step.

In the course, you will learn about both the technical and social underpinnings of this worldwide, volunteer-built resource, and how you can most effectively contribute to its vision to freely share knowledge. The six-week course will start its second round on 14 May (for those in the Americas) or 15 May (Asia/Australia).* Sign up here.

Sara_and_Pete%2C_Communicate_OER
Sara and Pete, Communicate OER / Pete Forsyth / CC BY

While the course is free and open to everyone, it focuses on the topic of open educational resources (OER), and students work to improve relevant Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework. The first round of the course concluded last week. The course organizers, Pete Forsyth and Sara Frank Bristow of Communicate OER, had so much fun that they are diving right back in to facilitate a second round. Pete says,

“We learned a great deal in our first run: we were surprised by how few of our students knew about OER, but also how fully they embraced the topic. We hope you will agree, their efforts to improve the OER article have been successful: while there will always be room for improvement, today’s version of the article is much improved from the version prior to the start of our class.”

Several members of the CC community were proud to support this effort. In the first round, CC CEO Cathy Casserly participated in a panel discussion and CC Senior Project Manager Paul Stacey provided a review of the OER article around which the course participants shaped their improvements.

Creative Commons encourages you to take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to the world’s understanding of open educational resources and the open licenses that make them possible. Sign up for the upcoming course today. You can also participate in a future course or engage in other ways by reaching out to the course organizers at the same link.

If you would like to be notified when other “open” courses launch their second rounds, make sure you’re subscribed to the School of Open announcements list.

*If you’re in Europe or Africa, the synchronous course sessions will be in the middle of the night. You are welcome to enroll and watch the archived sessions each week; join the third round of the course, expected to launch in July; or watch for the self-paced version of the course, to be announced in early June.

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Now Hiring: LRMI Project Manager

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

Creative Commons is looking for a LRMI Project Manager. This person will play a key role in leading the LRMI project.

From the job description:

We are looking for a Project Manager to lead the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), a project co-led by Creative Commons and the Association of Educational Publishers to build a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources.

The LRMI Project Manager will provide general oversight of the internal project staff and subcontractors, and ensure LRMI work plans are clearly articulated and timelines adhered to.

This position:

  • project manages all CC LRMI grants and deliverables;
  • serves as the primary contact for all LRMI subcontractors and external stakeholders;
  • leads the LRMI technical working group listserv and meetings;
  • liaises with open communities, OER repositories / referatories, institutions, standards bodies, and vendors that are integrating LRMI and/or increasing the value of CC’s legal and technology tools;
  • is the key player in CC’s outreach to open education organizations and broadening awareness about LRMI and CC among states and school districts;
  • represents LRMI and CC at private meetings and selected conferences and events;
  • reports progress on the project to CC, the open community and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and
  • serves as an education expert on technology aspects of CC internally and externally.

If this sounds exciting to you, we’d love to hear from you. Check out the full job listing for more information.

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LRMI Accepted into Schema.org

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) specification (14 properties) has been accepted and published as a part of Schema.org, the collaboration between major search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex (press release). This marks the culmination of a year’s worth of open collaboration with the LRMI Technical Working Group and the wider education publishing community. To view the LRMI properties within the context of the full Schema.org hierarchy, visit schema.org/CreativeWork. See this post by Phil Barker for additional detail.

The LRMI, a simple tagging schema that draws from and maps easily to existing metadata frameworks (e.g., IEEE, LOM and Dublin Core), is intended to be an easy way for open and proprietary content publishers to standardize the way they describe the education specific characteristics of their resources.

This is wonderful news as the LRMI specification will be a piece of the future of education, especially as it pertains to Open Educational Resources (OER). Some of the features of LRMI will allow next generation learning systems based on personalized guided learning. To get a better idea of what kinds of things are possible with LRMI, watch this OSCON keynote by Danny Hillis describing the concept of a Learning Map.

Creative Commons is currently working with 10 different OER platforms and repositories to implement LRMI support and we hope to announce the first few complete implementations in the coming months.

To join the ongoing discussions around LRMI support and implementation, please join the public mailing list.

And… Creative Commons is hiring a new LRMI Project Manager. Please send us the best and brightest to lead this important project!

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PLOS launches open access science award program

Timothy Vollmer, May 1st, 2013

asap banner

Today the Public Library of Science announced the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP). The award program seeks nominations of individuals who have used, applied, or remixed scientific research — published through open access — in order to realize innovations in science, medicine, and technology. The goal of ASAP is to build awareness of and encourage the use of scientific research published through open access. Major sponsors include the Wellcome Trust and Google.

Three winners will each receive $30,000. The nomination period opens today and runs through June 15, 2013. Potential nominees may include individuals, teams, or groups of collaborators -– such as scientists, researchers, educators, social services, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers, patient advocates, public health workers, and students -– who have used scientific research in transformative ways. The winners will be announced in Washington, DC, in October 2013 at an Open Access Week event hosted by SPARC and the World Bank.

Creative Commons is a supporter of ASAP, along with several other library organizations, publishers, and research organizations.

For more information, including the full details of the ASAP program, nomination process, and the award specifics, go to http://asap.plos.org/. For program rules visit http://asap.plos.org/nominate/rules/.

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Open Course Library releases 39 more high-enrollment courses

Jane Park, April 30th, 2013

OCLHowto1
OCL How-to Guide / SBCTC / CC BY

A year and a half ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of Washington state’s 81 high-enrollment courses under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Now they have released the remaining 39 under the same terms, which means that anyone, anywhere, including the state’s 34 public community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities, can use, customize, and distribute the course materials.

The Open Course Library project is funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt, and distribute under CC BY.

For further background on the project, read our 2010 feature about the project when it was just beginning. All 81 courses are available at the recently redesigned Open Course Library website where each individual course is marked with the CC BY license to enable discovery through Google and other search services on the web.

Update

The SBCTC held a press call today bringing to light a new Cost Analysis report on savings for students where Open Course Library courses have been used in lieu of traditional course materials. For more info, please see:

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California Pushes for Public Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

Timothy Vollmer, April 25th, 2013

ca oa

As we mentioned last week, California has introduced AB 609, the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Nestande, would require that research articles funded through California tax dollars be made available online for free no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. A letter from the University of California may have prompted the Assembly to modify the text of the draft bill to extend the embargo to 12 months (instead of six), and to include a provision exempting the University of California and California State University from the state agencies that must comply with the legislation, if enacted.

A group of organizations (including Creative Commons) sent a letter to Assembly Member Nestande thanking him for introducing the bill. The letter urged the Assembly to considering strengthening the proposed law by including reuse rights language, such as through the adoption of open licenses:

We encourage you to consider strengthening this legislation by including a provision to ensure that manuscripts reporting on state-funded research be made fully usable by the public. To fully unlock the value of the information contained in these digital articles, they should be made available in formats and under licensing terms that permit users to read, downloaded, search, compute on, data mine or analyze for any lawful purpose.

It also asked for the original 6 month embargo to be reinstated:

Additionally, while we would strongly prefer that these articles be made available to the public immediately upon publication, we would support the inclusion of an embargo period as originally proposed of no longer than six months.

A hearing in the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review is scheduled for May 1 in Sacramento.

California residents can support the legislation by sending a message to representatives at the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site. More information on the bill is available on the SPARC website.

California icon by Christopher Scott, from the Noun Project, under CC BY.
Unlock icon by J. Ali, from the Noun Project, Public Domain.

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Third Round of TAACCCT Grants Announced by US Department of Labor

Paul Stacey, April 25th, 2013

TAACCCTRd3

On April 19, 2013 US Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris announced the third annual round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT) grant program. The press release states that the current round of grants available is $474.5 million bringing the total 2011-13 program investment to nearly $1.5 billion. A fourth round is planned for 2014. Information on all the rounds is available here.

Funding is targeted at expanding innovative partnerships between community colleges and employers. All education and career training program strategies developed through grant funds have employer engagement and use labor market information to focus training on local economic needs. This years Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) says the TAACCCT programs aim is to help “adults acquire the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment while ensuring needs of employers for skilled workers are met”.

In addition to partnerships TAACCCT stimulates innovation by requiring applicants to build five core elements into their initiatives:
1. Evidence-Based Design
2. Stacked and Latticed Credentials
3. Transferability and Articulation of Credit
4. Advanced Online and Technology Enabled Learning
5. Strategic Alignment

This years SGA even encourages the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Another innovation, which DOL has maintained in all three rounds of the TAACCCT program, is the requirement for TAACCCT grantees to make all grant funded curricula and training materials Open Educational Resources (OER) by licensing them with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC BY).

This year’s SGA states:

  • “The purpose of the CC BY licensing requirement is to ensure that materials developed with funds provided by these grants result in Work that can be freely reused and improved by others.”
  • “To ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, as a condition of the receipt of a TAACCCT grant, the grantee will be required to license to the public all work (except for computer software source code, discussed below) created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CCBY) license. Work that must be licensed under the CCBY includes both new content created with the grant funds and modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds.”
  • “This license allows subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted Work and requires such users to attribute the Work in the manner specified by the grantee. Notice of the license shall be affixed to the Work. For general information on CCBY, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

TAACCCT academic resources developed by the first round of grantees for industry sectors such as health, manufacturing, energy, transportation, and information technology, will become available for reuse in 2014 followed by additional resources from subsequent rounds. What a boon to education and the economy.

Congratulations to the Department of Labor and the Department of Education for their leadership and foresight in requiring publicly funded educational resources be openly licensed in a way that allows them to be reused and continuously improved. This innovation will benefit students, educators, and industry.

Creative Commons remains committed to supporting TAACCCT grantees in deploying and leveraging the CC BY requirement. See OPEN4us.org for a current list of TAACCCT grantee services Creative Commons offers in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative, Center for Applied Special Technology, and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

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Digital Public Library of America Launches

Elliot Harmon, April 18th, 2013

Creative Commons would like to congratulate the Digital Public Library of America on its official launch today. The DPLA, which has been in planning since 2010, brings together millions of digital resources from numerous libraries, archives, and museums.

From DPLA:

The Digital Public Library of America will launch a beta of its discovery portal and open platform at noon ET today. The portal will deliver millions of materials found in American archives, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage institutions to students, teachers, scholars, and the public. Far more than a search engine, the portal will provide innovative ways to search and scan through its united collection of distributed resources. Special features will include a dynamic map, a timeline that allow users to visually browse by year or decade, and an app library that provides access to applications and tools created by external developers using DPLA’s open data.

In January, DPLA announced that all of its metadata would be in the public domain under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration. The Open Knowledge Foundation’s Joris Pekel applauded that announcement:

The decision to apply the CC0 Public Domain waiver to the metadata will greatly improve interoperability with Europeana, Europe’s equivalent of the DPLA. Now that more different initiatives start publishing digitised heritage and its metadata, interoperability becomes more and more important in order to create a linked web of cultural heritage data, instead of new data silos. By both choosing the CC0 Public Domain waiver, Europeana and the DPLA take a great a step forward in achieving their goal.

We applaud DPLA’s commitment to open data and are excited about the launch of such an important resource.

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Free Music Archive Launches Public Domain Music Contest

Elliot Harmon, April 17th, 2013

Remember the Happy Birthday song contest? Our friends at the Free Music Archive and WFMU are running another challenge to bring more music into the commons. But this time, it’s all about creating new, public domain recordings of public domain compositions.

From FMA:

Bring the public domain into the future! This April, WFMU and the Free Music Archive are challenging artists everywhere to create new recordings and contemporary arrangements of historic compositions available in the public domain. We’re calling this our Revitalize Music Contest.

Every song (except for perhaps “Happy Birthday“) will someday fall out of copyright. Archives such as the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library and Public Domain Information Project chart the vast and ever-expanding troves of public domain music. Participants in our Revitalize Music Contest will help bring these works to life by creating new recordings, and feeding them back into the public domain.

To enter the contest, participants must release their recordings into the public domain via the CC0 Public Domain Waiver. The Free Music Archive will hire a director to create a music video of the winning recording.

Submissions are due April 28, so get started on your recording. For inspiration, check out this early entry, Noel Bush‘s ASMR-inducing rendition of “Beautiful Dreamer“:

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