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The Australian National Data Service (ANDS)-sponsored "Costs and Benefits of Data Provision" (by John Houghton, September 2011) has been released. It's goal was to use case studies to provide insights into the question if Open Access to public sector information (PSI) is worth the cost. The answer was a resounding 'Hell Yeah!':
It is clear from the case studies presented that even the subset of benefits that can be measured outweigh the costs of making PSI more freely and openly available. It is also clear that it is not simply about access prices, but also about the transaction costs involved. Standardised and unrestrictive licensing, such as Creative Commons, and data standards are crucial in enabling access that is truly open (i.e. free, immediate and unrestricted).

For example, we find that the net cost to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of making publications and statistics freely available online and adopting Creative Commons licensing was likely to have been around $3.5 million per annum at 2005-06 prices and levels of activity, but the immediate cost savings for users were likely to have been around $5 million per annum. The
wider impacts in terms of additional use and uses bring substantial additional returns, with our estimates suggesting overall costs associated with free online access to ABS publications and data online and unrestrictive standard licensing of around $4.6 million per annum and measurable annualised benefits of perhaps $25 million (i.e. more than five times the costs).

What this study demonstrates is that the direct and measurable benefits of making PSI available freely and without restrictions on use typically outweigh the costs. When one adds the longer-term benefits that we cannot fully measure, and may not even foresee, the case for open access appears to be strong.
The author is a little bit more cautious when it comes to publicly funded research:
The publications and data arising from publicly funded research differ somewhat from other forms of PSI. Consequently, it is difficult to draw direct lessons for the research sector from the case studies explored in this report. Nevertheless, it is clear that many of the same issues arise when attempting to measure the value of the information and/or the costs and benefits associated with providing open access to it.
Go read the whole thing!
Posted on Friday 28 October 2011 - 22:17:38 comment: 0

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