National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20418, USA. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their institutions of employment.
he digital revolution has transformed the accumulation of properly curated public research data into an essential upstream resource whose value increases with use. The potential contributions of such data to the creation of new knowledge and downstream economic and social goods can in many cases be multiplied exponentially when the data are made openly available on digital networks. Most developed countries spend large amounts of public resources on research and related scientific facilities and instruments that generate massive amounts of data. Yet precious little of that investment is devoted to promoting the value of the resulting data by preserving and making them broadly available. The largely ad hoc approach to managing such data, however, is now beginning to be understood as inadequate to meet the exigencies of the national and international research enterprise. The time has thus come for the research community to establish explicit responsibilities for these digital resources. This article reviews the opportunities and challenges to the global science system associated with establishing an open data policy.