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Ready to put metadata on the post-2015 development agenda? Linking data publications to responsible innovation and science diplomacy

Özdemir, V   Kolker, E   Huzair, F   et al

OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology   18 (1) 1-9

DOI: 10.1089/omi.2013.0170

January 2014

Metadata refer to descriptions about data or as some put it, “data about data.” Metadata capture what happens on the backstage of science, on the trajectory from study conception, design, funding, implementation, and analysis to reporting. Definitions of metadata vary, but they can include the context information surrounding the practice of science, or data generated as one uses a technology, including transactional information about the user. As the pursuit of knowledge broadens in the 21st century from traditional “science of whats” (data) to include “science of hows” (metadata), we analyze the ways in which metadata serve as a catalyst for responsible and open innovation, and by extension, science diplomacy. In 2015, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will formally come to an end. Therefore, we propose that metadata, as an ingredient of responsible innovation, can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the post-2015 agenda. Such responsible innovation, as a collective learning process, has become a key component, for example, of the European Union’s 80 billion Euro Horizon 2020 R&D Program from 2014–2020. Looking ahead, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology, is launching an initiative for a multi-omics metadata checklist that is flexible yet comprehensive, and will enable more complete utilization of single and multi-omics data sets through data harmonization and greater visibility and accessibility. The generation of metadata that shed light on how omics research is carried out, by whom and under what circumstances, will create an “intervention space” for integration of science with its socio-technical context. This will go a long way to addressing responsible innovation for a fairer and more transparent society. If we believe in science, then such reflexive qualities and commitments attained by availability of omics metadata are preconditions for a robust and socially attuned science, which can then remain broadly respected, independent, and responsibly innovative.