What's your interpretation of the "Open" in "Open Data"? What differentiate this site from its relatives such as Statistical Analysis or Data?


Some questions I have in mind:

Is GPU specifications on-topic?

What about data visualization, which applies to all sorts of data, not just the open ones?

  • The data proposal at area51 has been closed Commented Aug 3, 2013 at 3:29

4 Answers 4


For anyone interested in a definition of Open Data, have a look at the wonderful Open Definition by the Open Knowledge Foundation. Here's the short version:

A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.

Alternatively, the Wikipedia article on Open Data also has a nice definition:

Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The goals of the open data movement are similar to those of other "open" movements such as open source, open hardware, open content, and open access.

In my opinion, that sums it up quite nicely.

Regarding your example questions:

  • As long as the GPU specifications are Open Data, they are relevant to the Open Data SE. If it's a closed, copyrighted, or commercial database, not so much.

  • Data visualization is a good question, and probably a grey area. There is of course Cross Validated, the SE site "for statisticians, data analysts, data miners and data visualization experts". However, I would not categorically ban questions on data visualization from the Open Data SE. Visualization is an important part of the Open Data movement, and long as the data being visualized is open, related questions should be fine here.


There is a broad range of openness, involving lots of factors such as easy access, easy/open format, clean, with good metadata. But the key factor, which I think this site should decide is the one that defines what is to be included in discussions and what is not relevant, is the license.

The license is what allows the average person to hack the data, to derive results, to share changes publicly.

It is equivalent to what makes open source so powerful - it is not so much that you can read it, it is the fact that everyone can try it, contribute and fork it.

This brings you to another question - how do we define what an open license is. And the Open Definition is a pretty defensible position to take in this respect.


The Office of Management and Budget, in the Executive Office of the President, in a May 9, 2013 memo (OMB-M-13-13, Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset), defines Open Data this way:

Open data: For the purposes of this Memorandum, the term "open data" refers to publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users. In general, open data will be consistent with the following principles:

• Public. Consistent with OMB's Open Government Directive, agencies must adopt a presumption in favor of openness to the extent pennitted by law and subject to privacy, confidentiality, security, or other valid restrictions.

• Accessible. Open data are made available in convenient, modifiable, and open fonnats that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched. Formats should be machine-readable (i.e., data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing). Open data structures do not discriminate against any person or group of persons and should be made available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes, often by providing the data in multiple formats for consumption. To the extent permitted by law, these formats should be non-proprietary, publicly available, and no restrictions should be placed upon their use.

•Described. Open data are described fully so that consumers of the data have sufficient information to understand their strengths, weaknesses, analytical limitations, security requirements, as well as how to process them. This involves the use of robust, granular metadata (i.e., fields or elements that describe data), thorough documentation of data elements, data dictionaries, and, if applicable, additional descriptions of the purpose of the collection, the population of interest, the characteristics of the sample, and the method of data collection.

•Reusable. Open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.

•Complete. Open data are published in primary forms (i.e., as collected at the source), with the finest possible level of granularity that is practicable and permitted by law and other requirements. Derived or aggregate open data should also be published but must reference the primary data.

•Timely. Open data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data. Frequency of release should account for key audiences and downstream needs.

•Managed Post-Release. A point of contact must be designated to assist with data use and to respond to complaints about adherence to these open data requirements.

  • I'd argue that 'no restrictions' means that CC-BY licensed data is out. (as some uses are difficult to also attach attribution). This definition also has the problem that it's by the government, and so government/public use are already implied. Bits of the definition are good, but as a whole it's not so great. (eg, does it have to be 'managed post-release' to be 'open'?)
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 10:45

For myself, "Open Data" implies focus on data from governments, or at least some sort of authority. It also implies public concern.

  • 2
    Open Government Data is certainly one important part of the Open Data movement. But what about Open Research Data? What about projects like Wikipedia or Wikidata? Or crowdsourced data collection platforms like Ushahidi? Commented May 9, 2013 at 12:37
  • 1
    In that case, would "data with a (significant) public interest/benefit" be a better decider? Commented May 9, 2013 at 16:41

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