On “Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada”

On “Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada”

“Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada” is a consultation document that was compiled by the Government of Canada (namely the Tri-Council and CFI, in collaboration with Genome Canada) and released in October 2013. The primary aim of this document is to argue that funding policies for digital scholarship and infrastructure in Canada need to be coordinated. The document’s compilers contend that Canada does not have sufficient infrastructure to manage the increasing load of digital research output and data; as they write, “the potential of data-intensive research is progressively and rapidly outstripping our ability to manage and to grow the digital ecosystem required to meet 21st century needs” (1).

Of note, the compilers list 9 paths or principles toward an “advanced, robust digital infrastructure ecosystem” (6):

  • Integration – all essential elements are integrated in a national system that avoids unnecessary duplication, fragmentation and overlap of service; similarly avoiding unnecessary competition.

  • Inclusivity – dealing with all federal, provincial/territorial, regional, institutional stakeholders in all sectors and research communities.

  • Sustainability – designed and supported in a way that enables evolution and adaptability, agility and responsiveness to users, stakeholders and technology evolution.

  • Comprehensive – provides a full spectrum of service dealing with all parts of the evolving digital infrastructure ecosystem (e.g., networks, computational facilities, tools and services, data management, the framework conditions, people).

  • Accessible – maximum ease of access, regardless of location, discipline or level of expertise; a “one-stop-shop” approach is desirable from a user’s perspective as opposed to having to negotiate with many service providers.

  • Valued – stakeholders support the national system; user services are prioritized based on the value stakeholders place on them, while being responsive to opportunities in the evolving ecosystem.

  • Governed – the national system has effective oversight, stakeholder engagement and alignment of its component parts.

  • Agil [sic] – responsive to user needs, focused on rapid and efficient service delivery.

  • Ethical – supports and promotes the ethical use of data and enables freedom of inquiry. (6)

They also lay out a set of proposed actions for discussion and input. Overall, all of the recommendations seem well-meaning and thought out. Appendix 2, the “Stakeholders and Landscape Map,” is also very helpful as an overview of key digital scholarship and infrastructure organizations.  Individual institutions, however, are conspicuously missing from the document. Distinct from articles on mandated OA research output, which focus on the importance of streamlined mandating between institutions, government, and funding bodies (see Harnad 2015; Gargouri et al. 2010), this document focuses primarily on the work of funding agencies and the various government-aligned and representative organizations in Canada. Although from a pragmatic perspective it makes good sense to hold these conversations with representational bodies like the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, I wonder if it is not also valuable to consider the institutions not represented in these bodies, as well as the benefit of a coordinated approach that spans every corner of the Canadian research environment.


Works cited

Gargouri, Yassine, Chawki Hajjem, Vincente Larivière, Yves Gringas, Les Carr, Tim Brody, and Stevan Harnad. 2010. “Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research.” PLoS ONE 5 (10): n.p.

Government of Canada. 2013. “Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada.” Ottawa.

Harnad, Stevan. 2015. “Optimizing Open Access Policy.” The Serials Librarian 69 (2): 133 –41. DOI: 10.1080/0361526X.2015.1076368


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