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What is Open Data?

The term open data refers to any type of data that is made freely available for secondary use. Open data can be a simple table, a large microdata file with individual responses to a survey, a geospatial dataset, qualitative data, or any other type of information that might be considered data. The key characteristic, though, is that anybody can access it.

Why Open Data?

  • New discoveries and synthesis of existing knowledge
    • With fewer barriers to access, open data can contribute to further study, including reviews and meta-analyses
  • Transparency in research and governance
    • Open data helps us better understand research findings and participate in civic life
  • Reproducibility
    • A hallmark of good scientific research is that it’s reproducible. Open data paves the way for the confirmation of previous findings

Open data most often comes from academic research and government bodies.

Research Data

Where to find open research data

Research data can be found in data repositories hosted by universities or research-affiliated agencies. In Canada, two major data repository networks include Borealis, of which the Mount Royal University Data Repository is a part, and Lunaris. Data from both repositories appear in Library Search.

Other major repositories include:

You can identify additional repositories by searching in the Registry of Research Data Repositories.

For more information on finding research data, see the Statistics & Data subject guide.

Making your research data open

Publicly archiving research data requires planning from the start of a research project. You should consider:

  • Ethics Clearance
    • If your research involves human participants, ensure you are following protocols for consent and management of data
  • Repository
    • Consider file size, persistent identifiers, storage location and security, discoverability, and funder and publisher requirements. 
  • Data Preparation
    • Ensure your files are complete, named clearly, and accompanied by full documentation to ensure that others can reuse them

See the Research Data Management page for more information about archiving your research data.

Open research data policies

Many research funding agencies and academic publishers employ open data policies, which may require or encourage researchers to openly archive data.

Government Data

Where to find open government data

Open government data is most often found in centralized repositories maintained by government agencies. In Canada, the federal government as well as most provinces and large municipalities maintain open data portals. Additional data may also be housed in departmental databases and accessed through government websites. Examples of open government data repositories include:

Open government data may also be found in research data repositories, like Lunaris. See the Statistics and Data subject guide for more sources of open government data.

Supporting open government data

You can advocate for more open government data by contacting your local government representatives. For more information about open government, see the Government of Canada’s information page.

You might also be interested in joining or attending events hosted by advocacy groups such as:


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Brian Jackson

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