Open knowledge in Australia: making it useful, useable and used

23 August 2013

What is the best way to share and use the vast amounts of data now available to the world community?

Accessing and developing global knowledge is the core purpose of the Open Knowledge Foundation and this Monday 26 August its co-founder, Dr Rufus Pollock, will mark the launch of an Australian chapter of the foundation.

Speaking at an interactive Sydney Ideas event at the University of Sydney, Dr Pollock will be joined by the Open Knowledge Foundation's new Sydney ambassadors Dr Mat Todd, from the University's School of Chemistry and Dr Anne Cregan, from the eResearch support agency Intersect.

Started in the United Kingdom in 2004, the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) is dedicated to promoting open data and content in all their forms, including government data, publicly funded research and public domain cultural content.

Its innovative projects include the world's leading open source data portal platform, the OpenSpending site that allows people to track government transactions, and, (with the European Journalism Centre), the production of the Data Journalism Handbook.
"Open knowledge means not only that data can be freely used but that it is useful - accessible, understandable, meaningful and able to help someone solve a real problem," Dr Pollock said.

The creation in 2011 of eLife, an open access journal to rival Nature, is an important example of an open access venue for advances in everything from biological research to applied, translational and clinical studies. It is just one of a myriad of open knowledge developments taking place internationally."

Australia joins the more than 50 chapters of the OKF including those in Europe, India, China, Japan and America. The goal of the foundation in Australia is to support the diverse open knowledge communities already active here from tech communities, academics, public servants, entrepreneurs, open government and data journalist communities.

In 2011 Dr Mat Todd, a Sydney ambassador of the OKF, won the Emerging Research category of the NSW Science and Engineering Awards for his leadership of a project that used an open source approach to produce medicine now used worldwide for the treatment of Bilharzia, a parasitic disease that afflicts millions of the world's poorest people.

Dr Todd currently leads the Open Source Malaria project that aims to combine open data and open source in the creation of public domain medicines.

In open source drug discovery all the data and ideas are freely and immediately shared, and anyone may participate at any level. The open nature of the work means that any technology is both academically and commercially exploitable by whoever wishes to do so," said Dr Todd.

"Drug discovery is a complex process involving many different stages, and the open source method has huge potential for improving the early phases before clinical trials have commenced."

Dr Rufus Pollock is a Shuttleworth Fellow at the University of Cambridge and is recognised for his scholarly work on open data and open knowledge economies. He has sat on government advisory panels including the British Prime Minister's appointed Public Sector Transparency Board.

This event is co-presented with the Open Knowledge Foundation - Australia, as part of the Open Knowledge Down Under tour.

Event details

What: The Future of Open Knowledge: what impact will open knowledge have on research, the economy and the public?

When: Monday, 26 August at 6pm

Where: General Lecture Theatre, The Quadrangle, The University of Sydney 

Cost: Free. Registration required.

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