New FAQ page added: Openness and Data Access

We’ve added a new FAQ page about Openness and Data Access

SAFECAST tries to set an example of openness in how we gather and present our data, and try to demonstrate what the wider benefits of easy access to open data are for society as a whole. It’s not just a matter of principle, but also one of pragmatism and practicality: we’re convinced that the more open data is, the more useful it becomes.

We frequently get technical questions about how our data is processed and visualized, about how to find and download specific parts of it, about what formats it can be shared in, etc.. These questions usually come from technically knowledgeable people, and we actually welcome having them poke around under the hood. This often leads to interesting and productive conversations, and more than one curious observer has ended up actually contributing to the project this way. Having our system as openly accessible as possible makes it easy for people to participate.

Also, we ourselves are generally skeptical by nature, and our first reaction to seeing a graph or chart is usually, “How do I know this data is trustworthy?” We understand that many others are as well, and in fact we appreciate people who have a similarly high standard for the integrity of published data, and who will reject anything whose validity they cannot independently evaluate. We designed our system and our openness policies with people like this in mind.

We wish this were the case for everyone publishing independent radiation data (or any data, for that matter), but it’s not. There’s no reason for the public to consider “independent” data more trustworthy than “official” data unless the people publishing it can demonstrate that it’s technically comparable and also more transparent and free of possible bias. We encourage others to start with the assumption that their data cannot be considered trustworthy unless it can be easily and anonymously accessed by others and put to demanding analytical tests. And we would point out that “openness” is not something that can be easily added later, but needs to be integrated into the data collection system from the start, including insuring that there’s a consensus among all the participants that it’s a major priority. An open system doesn’t have to cost more than one that’s not, but it does require careful consideration and planning.

About the Author

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast's lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.