Policy ForumData Policy

Government data, commercial cloud: Will public access suffer?

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Science  08 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6427, pp. 588-589
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat5474

Summary

Many government agencies have adopted open data policies, making their data freely available to all users online. At the same time, many agencies are experiencing substantial increases in the volume of data that they generate or collect. Simply upgrading existing systems is often not sufficient to ensure that large volumes of data remain accessible and can be analyzed efficiently; instead, agencies are transitioning to cloud infrastructures. Whereas some agencies seek to develop new in-house cloud platforms, many others are turning to commercial cloud providers. However, the ways in which agencies are partnering with these commercial entities vary considerably, as does the distribution of costs among agencies, cloud providers, and users. In some cases, users may need to pay to work with government data that were previously freely available. Although the underlying data may remain free, agencies may allow commercial providers to charge fees to users to download or analyze data using their commercial platform. Such challenges to the implementation of open data policies must be addressed to ensure that the current benefits of these policies are not lost and to realize the opportunities for researchers and society presented by big data and cloud computing.