Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Innovation, data-sharing and the RDA

The Research Data Alliance (RDA) sounds like the sort of body that readers of this weblog should want to know about, given their interest in IP analytics, investment and innovation strategy.  Indeed, since it claims a large international membership and covers such an important field of activity and interest, one might have expected the RDA to be familiar to us all.  This is not however so.  A Google search of "Research Data Alliance" this morning attracted just 31,000 results.  In the joined-up world of online data, this classes the RDA as being not much better-known than a well-kept secret.

If you were wondering what it's all about, we can tell you that the RDA was actually founded in 2013 by the European Commission, the United States Government's National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Australian Government’s Department of Innovation. Despite its currently low profile, the RDA is a major recipient of support in the form of grants from all of its constituent members' governments. According to its website it is
" ... an international organization focused on the development of infrastructure and community activities aimed to reduce barriers to data sharing and exchange, and promote the acceleration of data driven innovation worldwide. With close to 4,000 members globally, RDA comprises individuals, organizations and policy makers representing multiple industries and disciplines, who are committed to building the social, organizational and technical infrastructure needed to reduce barriers to data sharing and exchange, and accelerating data driven innovation worldwide".
The general notions of developing the infrastructure and community activities aimed at reducing barriers to data sharing and exchange are quite unobjectionable, as is the promotion of the acceleration of data-driven innovation worldwide. The patent system is itself focused on reducing barriers to data sharing and exchange, by requiring the publication of patent applications, demanding that claims and descriptions of inventions be intelligible to their addressees, by classifying inventions in such a way as to enable them to be speedily identified and accessed, and by adopting technologies that facilitate that process. Computer translation now aids human effort in enabling industrialists, innovators, investors and analysts to gain an understanding of technologies generated by people speaking other languages and using unfamiliar scripts. Further, the World Intellectual Property Organization has an active policy of promoting the value of the public domain, a vast and growing corpus of information that not only has technical application but which can also flag products, processes and research results that need not be unnecessarily repeated. 

In addition to the infrastructure provided by the patent system nationally and globally, many private sector initiatives have sought to encourage the better use, wider sharing and greater understanding of both proprietary and publicly available data.  These include the spread of open innovation practices (mentioned in yesterday's Aistemos blogpost here), the operations of technical standards-setting bodies and the rapid growth of the IP analytics sector, of which Aistemos is part.

Since the patent system already appears to facilitate so much of that the RDA seeks to achieve, it would be good to know how this public sector initiative proposes to accelerate data-driven innovation worldwide.  If it can deliver on its promises, well and good. However, it will have to work hard if it is to make a mark in the fast-evolving data ecosystem in which it operates, and those who fund it should have some metric by which to measure the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of anything that it does deliver.

1 comment:

  1. Never heard of them. Is this another organization that has been created so that prospectively important people can list their involvement in it among the intangible and immeasurable achievements for which they will receive an honour?