Maastricht Economic and social Research and  training centre on Innovation and Technology

Africa bridging the digital divides: New policy note
Information and communication technology is developing rapidly in Africa – but there are worrying trends, such as a growing digital divide between men and women, and between urban and rural areas. These are the basic findings of a new policy note by Prof. Samia Nour, an affiliated researcher at UNU-MERIT.

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  • Text-mining tool seeks out 'hidden data'
    Forgotten to free your data? A tool called Wide-Open can search out instances of locked online research data sets that are supposed to be public - and it has already flagged hundreds of such instances in genetics research, according to a new study.

    Scientists often post 'hidden' data online in repositories while their related studies are going through peer review, intending to make data sets public later. Two popular repositories that offer researchers the option to keep genetics data hidden, for example, are the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) and the Sequence Read Archive (SRA). Both sites require data sets to be made open when papers are published.

    So researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle developed Wide-Open to find non-open data, focusing on GEO and SRA. The tool scans papers for mentions of unique data-set identifier codes that use the GEO's or SRA's code format. The tool could be tweaked to query other repositories as well. Once it identifies a valid code, Wide-Open trawls the relevant repository to find out whether the data set is public. It notes as 'overdue' any data set that isn't available, but should be.

    The team ran Wide-Open on roughly 1.5m papers in PubMed Central, an open-access database of biomedical studies. The tool identified 473 data sets missing in GEO, and 84 in SRA. The team alerted the repositories of its finds. By the time the GEO staff checked, they found that 27 of the flagged data sets were already live - representing a short lag in posting for some publications - and they released 429 data sets that were overdue. The remaining cases either cited incorrect codes or mentioned data sets that couldn't be made open because of privacy concerns or incomplete data submission.

    Wide-Open now trawls GEO and SRA roughly every month, and automatically updates its site with papers whose data are missing.

    Nature / PLoS Biology    June 08, 2017