Thursday, 15 August 2013

P2PU Open Data od-2: How Open Is it?

For this task we were asked to assess the openness of one of 3 specified repositories. I chose the NASA Life Science Data Repositories (well, who would turn down the chance to look at stuff related to space? It's way up there with dinosaurs and cartoons from the 80s).

The 'about the archive' section states:

NASA's Life Sciences Data Archive (LSDA) is an active archive that provides information and data from 1961 (Mercury Project) through current flight and flight analog studies (International Space Station, Shuttle, bed rest studies, etc.) involving human, plant and animal subjects. 

Much of the information and data are publicly available on this site. Some data are potentially attributable to individual human subjects, and thus restricted by the Privacy Act, but can be requested for research.

Sounds good so far, so let's check...

Can you view the datasets at no cost? Must you sign up to view the data?
I checked several datasets; all were easy to view (as an Excel spreadsheet). I did not need to sign up.

Is there a tool on the website for you to view or manipulate the data?
I don't think so (although I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for), but all the data I looked at is in Excel spreadsheets which are easy to manipulate.*

Can you download the datasets from the repository?
Yes, all the ones I checked could be downloaded.

Are the licenses for the datasets clearly marked and visible? What licenses are on the datasets?
I could not find any license information. I tried doing a full-text search for CC-BY then a search for "public domain" but both returned no results. I assume the datasets are freely available for re-use but it would be good practice if this was explicitly stated.

The LSDA site also has a photo gallery but again I could not find any license information, so here is a CC-BY-NC licensed photo from Flickr:

Space Shuttle Endeavour Over Earth (NASA, International Space Station Science, 02/09/10)

*by those who know what they are doing, not by me just in case anyone has plans to give me a load of spreadsheets!

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