Belmont Forum Adopts Open Data Principles for Environmental Change Research

Arctic Glacier - Source: Staehli, Bernhard. Climate Change - Antarctic Melting Glacier in a Global Warming Environment. Digital Image. Shutterstock, [Date Published Unknown]

The Belmont Forum, a group of the world’s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research, is committed to pursuing groundbreaking collaborative action to accelerate the delivery of environmental research. Recognizing the crucial role of open and effective data and information exchange to this mission, the Belmont Forum has for the first time adopted an Open Data Policy and Principles. The principles were developed as part of a collaborative effort initiated by the Belmont Forum, with input from more than 120 International researchers, computer and information scientists, legal scholars, and social scientists, to develop a plan for creating an Internationally coordinated and data-intensive e-infrastructure for global environmental change research.

The principles, adopted at the Belmont Forum’s latest annual meeting held in Oslo, Norway in late 2015, call for data derived from global change research to be discoverable, accessible, understandable, well-managed and properly conserved.

“This policy of openness paves the way for science and funding agencies collaborating Internationally to reinforce the excellence and integrity of science,” says Kurt Vandenberghe, co-chair of the Belmont Forum. “It will facilitate innovation through taking advantage of research data and results and, most of all, it will enhance global scientific collaboration and science diplomacy as essential conditions for developing more sustainable societies.” The new policy signals a commitment by funders of global environmental change research to increase access to scientific data, a step widely recognized as essential to making informed decisions in the face of rapid changes affecting the Earth’s environment.

Adoption of the open data policy and principles is one of five recommendations in A Place to Stand: e-Infrastructures and Data Management for Global Change Research, released in June, 2015. “A Place to Stand” is the result of the Belmont Forum’s two-year scoping phase to develop a funding mechanism for global e-Infrastructure and Data Management, involving experts and resources from fourteen countries. Scoping activities included a survey of the global environmental research and data infrastructure communities to learn about perceptions of the term “open data” and to identify barriers to open data sharing. The results of the survey were recently published in the Journal PLOS One.

Additional recommendations include promoting effective data planning, determining best practices to inform e-infrastructure policy, and supporting the development of a cross-disciplinary training curriculum. The Belmont Forum will begin to implement all of these recommendations in 2016 through an unprecedented international cooperation effort. An e-infrastructures Coordination Office will foster organization among the various activities, each led by different Belmont Forum member organizations. The Coordination Office will also engage the global e-infrastructure community through cooperation with a broad network of organizations such as the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Research Data Alliance (RDA).

Belmont Forum Data Policy

The Belmont Forum adopts this data policy and the following principles to widen access to data and promote its long-term preservation in global change research; help improve data management and exploitation; coordinate and integrate disparate organizational and technical elements; fill critical global e-infrastructure gaps; share best practices; and foster new data literacy.

The Belmont Forum recognizes that significant advances in open access to data have been achieved and implementation of this policy and these principles requires support by a highly skilled workforce. The Belmont Forum recommends a broad-based training and education curriculum as an integral part of research programs and encourages researchers to be aware of, and plan for, the costs of data intensive research. The Belmont Forum’s ambition is that this policy and these principles will take positive steps toward establishing a global, interoperable e-infrastructure based on cost-effective solutions that can help enable actionable and societally beneficial science.

Data should be:

  • Discoverable through catalogues and search engines
  • Accessible as open data by default, and made available with minimum time delay
  • Understandable in a way that allows researchers—including those outside the discipline of origin—to use them
  • Manageable and protected from loss for future use in sustainable, trustworthy repositories

The Belmont Forum and its members will support and promote this data policy and principles with the intent of making these data principles enforceable over time.

For more information about the Belmont Forum’s e-Infrastructure strategy and data management activities, please click here

Media Contacts

Kelly Watson and Rowena Davis