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    Open Data Advocates Urge International Energy Agency for Free and Open Access to Data

    Civil societyOpen Data Advocates Urge International Energy Agency for Free...
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    Open Data Advocates Urge International Energy Agency for Free and Open Access to Data

    The authors of the letter argue that open data can provide a wide range of benefits, including access to data for some of the most common questions, such as annual GHG emissions or renewables production, consumption, and waste.

    The Breakthrough Institute, joined by 63 organizations and open data advocates, sent a letter to the International Energy Agency (IEA), along with the U.S. delegate to the IEA Secretary of Energy Granholm, urging them to make their data open and freely accessible to all. The IEA is one of the world’s largest repositories of scientific, economic, and logistical data. Unlike other organizations, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the IEA keeps their data behind a paywall.

    Signatories include Carnegie Mellon University Graduate Student Assembly, Clean Energy Buyers Association, Catalyst Cooperative, Energy for Growth, Fastest Path to Zero, Good Energy Collective, Nuclear Energy Institute, Nuclear Innovation Alliance, R Street, and Third Way. There are many more.

    Our World In Data originally launched a campaign to unlock data in an article and letter in Nature. Members of the Open Modelling community also wrote an open letter to IEA urging them to open data access to all. The letter asked organizations, academics, modellers, and researchers that might use IEA data to provide their support in a joint open letter to the IEA and U.S. delegates.

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    “Open access to high quality and comprehensive energy-related data is essential to an efficient and equitable transition to clean energy while also enabling rapid response to global crises,” said Dr. Adam Stein, Associate Director, Nuclear Innovation at the Breakthrough Institute and member of the Open Modelling community. “Anyone who currently wants access to this energy data has to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to access one dataset. This serves as an unnecessary barrier and makes research and scientific inquiry more expensive.”

    The IEA is funded largely by OECD governments, public contributions that should earn public access to the essential data and analysis.

    Wide range of benefits

    The authors of the letter argue that open data can provide a wide range of benefits, including access to data for some of the most common questions, such as annual GHG emissions or renewables production, consumption, and waste.

    Access to data and its consequent equitable access for disadvantaged individuals unable to afford access is a must and that it will also ensure faster response to important problems by eliminating the need for grant-funded researchers to wait months for funding approval.

    The signatories feel that access will also reduce barriers for researchers to move beyond a US-only perspective that is partially driven by open access to US Energy Information Administration data. Besides, this also has the potential to reduce the overall cost to governments by reducing the need to purchase data for specific research projects. Although the National Science Foundation doesn’t break out data purchase fees, in 2019 $136M was spent just on software for research — two orders of magnitude higher than the IEA data revenue.

    “Open data reduces inequality, since researchers from well-off countries and institutions are better positioned to afford the purchase of IEA data,” says the letter. “The credibility and replicability of research are enhanced: independent researchers can verify or challenge studies based on common data.”

    The benefits of open data extend beyond climate change mitigation efforts, the letter writers argue. They cite the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that for the electricity, oil and gas, and transport sectors alone, open data could create an economic value of US$ 1.3–2.0 trillion per year.

    “Open data leads to less duplication of research efforts — with fewer resources wasted on recreating the paywalled IEA data from alternative and often inferior sources,” the letter reads.

    “Transparency is enhanced in relation to public policy development. Finally, open data improve outreach and engagement by reducing barriers for journalists and the public to access the data and understand its implications. It is therefore in everyone’s interest that the IEA data be open and freely available.”

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