Commission proposes measures to boost data sharing and support European data spaces


Press Release: “To better exploit the potential of ever-growing data in a trustworthy European framework, the Commission today proposes new rules on data governance. The Regulation will facilitate data sharing across the EU and between sectors to create wealth for society, increase control and trust of both citizens and companies regarding their data, and offer an alternative European model to data handling practice of major tech platforms.

The amount of data generated by public bodies, businesses and citizens is constantly growing. It is expected to multiply by five between 2018 and 2025. These new rules will allow this data to be harnessed and will pave the way for sectoral European data spaces to benefit society, citizens and companies. In the Commission’s data strategy of February this year, nine such data spaces have been proposed, ranging from industry to energy, and from health to the European Green Deal. They will, for example, contribute to the green transition by improving the management of energy consumption, make delivery of personalised medicine a reality, and facilitate access to public services.

The Regulation includes:

  • A number of measures to increase trust in data sharing, as the lack of trust is currently a major obstacle and results in high costs.
  • Create new EU rules on neutrality to allow novel data intermediaries to function as trustworthy organisers of data sharing.
  • Measures to facilitate the reuse of certain data held by the public sector. For example, the reuse of health data could advance research to find cures for rare or chronic diseases.
  • Means to give Europeans control on the use of the data they generate, by making it easier and safer for companies and individuals to voluntarily make their data available for the wider common good under clear conditions….(More)”.

Geospatial Data Market Study


Study by Frontier Economics: “Frontier Economics was commissioned by the Geospatial Commission to carry out a detailed economic study of the size, features and characteristics of the UK geospatial data market. The Geospatial Commission was established within the Cabinet Office in 2018, as an independent, expert committee responsible for setting the UK’s Geospatial Strategy and coordinating public sector geospatial activity. The Geospatial Commission’s aim is to unlock the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data. The UK’s Geospatial Strategy (2020) sets out how the UK can unlock the full power of location data and take advantage of the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data….

Like many other forms of data, the value of geospatial data is not limited to the data creator or data user. Value from using geospatial data can be subdivided into several different categories, based on who the value accrues to:

Direct use value: where value accrues to users of geospatial data. This could include government using geospatial data to better manage public assets like roadways.

Indirect use value: where value is also derived by indirect beneficiaries who interact with direct users. This could include users of the public assets who benefit from better public service provision.

Spillover use value: value that accrues to others who are not a direct data user or indirect beneficiary. This could, for example, include lower levels of emissions due to improvement management of the road network by government. The benefits of lower emissions are felt by all of society even those who do not use the road network.

As the value from geospatial data does not always accrue to the direct user of the data, there is a risk of underinvestment in geospatial technology and services. Our £6 billion estimate of turnover for a subset of geospatial firms in 2018 does not take account of these wider economic benefits that “spill over” across the UK economy, and generate additional value. As such, the value that geospatial data delivers is likely to be significantly higher than we have estimated and is therefore an area for potential future investment….(More)”.

Introducing Reach: find and track research being put into action


Blog by Dawn Duhaney: “At Wellcome Data Labs we’re releasing our first product, Reach. Our goal is to support funding organisations and researchers by making it easier to find and track scientific research being put into action by governments and global health organisations.

https://reach.wellcomedatalabs.org/
https://reach.wellcomedatalabs.org/

We focused on solving this problem in collaboration with our internal Insights and Analysis team for Wellcome and with partner organisations before deciding to release Reach more widely.

We found that evaluation teams wanted tools to help them measure the influence academic research was having on policy making institutions. We noticed that it is often challenging to track how scientific evidence makes its way into policy making. Institutions like the UK Government and the World Health Organisation have hundreds of thousands of policy documents available — it’s a heavily manual task to search through them to find evidence of our funded research.

At Wellcome we have some established methods for collecting evidence of policy influence from our funded research such as end of scheme reporting and via word of mouth. Through these methods we found great examples of how funded research was being put into policy and practice by government and global health organisations.

One example is from Kenya. The KEMRI Research Programme — a collaboration between the Kenyan Medical Research Institute, Wellcome and Oxford University launched a research programme to improve maternal health in 2005. Their research was cited in the World Health Organisation and with advocacy efforts from the KEMRI team influenced the development of new Kenyan national guidelines of paediatric care.

In Wellcome Data Labs we wanted to build a tool that would aid the discovery of evidence based policy making and be a step in the process of assessing research influence for evaluators, researchers and funding institutions….(More)”.

Covid-19 Data Is a Mess. We Need a Way to Make Sense of It.


Beth Blauer and Jennifer Nuzzo in the New York Times: “The United States is more than eight months into the pandemic and people are back waiting in long lines to be tested as coronavirus infections surge again. And yet there is still no federal standard to ensure testing results are being uniformly reported. Without uniform results, it is impossible to track cases accurately or respond effectively.

We test to identify coronavirus infections in communities. We can tell if we are casting a wide enough net by looking at test positivity — the percentage of people whose results are positive for the virus. The metric tells us whether we are testing enough or if the transmission of the virus is outpacing our efforts to slow it.

If the percentage of tests coming back positive is low, it gives us more confidence that we are not missing a lot of infections. It can also tell us whether a recent surge in cases may be a result of increased testing, as President Trump has asserted, or that cases are rising faster than the rate at which communities are able to test.

But to interpret these results properly, we need a national standard for how these results are reported publicly by each state. And although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue protocols for how to report new cases and deaths, there is no uniform guideline for states to report testing results, which would tell us about the universe of people tested so we know we are doing enough testing to track the disease. (Even the C.D.C. was found in May to be reporting states’ results in a way that presented a misleading picture of the pandemic.)

Without a standard, states are deciding how to calculate positivity rates on their own — and their approaches are very different.

Some states include results from positive antigen-based tests, some states don’t. Some report the number of people tested, while others report only the number of tests administered, which can skew the overall results when people are tested repeatedly (as, say, at colleges and nursing homes)….(More)”

Armchair Survey Research: A Possible Post-COVID-19 Boon in Social Science


Paper by Samiul Hasan: “Post-COVID-19 technologies for higher education and corporate communication have opened-up wonderful opportunity for Online Survey Research. These technologies could be used for one-to-one interview, group interview, group questionnaire survey, online questionnaire survey, or even ‘focus group’ discussions. This new trend, which may aptly be called ‘armchair survey research’ may be the only or new trend in social science research. If that is the case, an obvious question might be what is ‘survey research’ and how is it going to be easier in the post-COVID-19 world? My intention is to offer some help to the promising researchers who have all quality and eagerness to undertake good social science research for publication, but no fund.

The text is divided into three main parts. Part one deals with “Science, Social Science and Research” to highlight some important points about the importance of ‘What’, ‘Why’, and ‘So what’ and ‘framing of a research question’ for a good research. Then the discussion moves to ‘reliability and validity’ in social science research including falsifiability, content validity, and construct validity. This part ends with discussions on concepts, constructs, and variables in a theoretical (conceptual) framework. The second part deals categorically with ‘survey research’ highlighting the use and features of interviews and questionnaire surveys. It deals primarily with the importance and use of nominal response or scale and ordinal response or scale as well as the essentials of question content and wording, and question sequencing. The last part deals with survey research in the post-COVID-19 period highlighting strategies for undertaking better online survey research, without any fund….(More)”.

Scaling up Citizen Science


Report for the European Commission: “The rapid pace of technology advancements, the open innovation paradigm, and the ubiquity of high-speed connectivity, greatly facilitate access to information to individuals, increasing their opportunities to achieve greater emancipation and empowerment. This provides new opportunities for widening participation in scientific research and policy, thus opening a myriad of avenues driving a paradigm shift across fields and disciplines, including the strengthening of Citizen Science. Nowadays, the application of Citizen Science principles spans across several scientific disciplines, covering different geographical scales. While the interdisciplinary approach taken so far has shown significant results and findings, the current situation depicts a wide range of projects that are heavily context-dependent and where the learning outcomes of pilots are very much situated within the specific areas in which these projects are implemented. There is little evidence on how to foster the spread and scalability in Citizen Science. Furthermore, the Citizen Science community currently lacks a general agreement on what these terms mean, entail and how these can be approached.

To address these issues, we developed a theoretically grounded framework to unbundle the meaning of scaling and spreading in Citizen Science. In this framework, we defined nine constructs that represent the enablers of these complex phenomena. We then validated, enriched, and instantiated this framework through four qualitative case studies of, diverse, successful examples of scaling and spreading in Citizen Science. The framework and the rich experiences allow formulating four theoretically and empirically grounded scaling scenarios. We propose the framework and the in-depth case studies as the main contribution from this report. We hope to stimulate future research to further refine our understanding of the important, complex and multifaceted phenomena of scaling and spreading in Citizen Science. The framework also proposes a structured mindset for practitioners that either want to ideate and start a new Citizen Science intervention that is scalable-by-design, or for those that are interested in assessing the scalability potential of an existing initiative….(More)”.

Reclaiming Free Speech for Democracy and Human Rights in a Digitally Networked World


Paper by Rebecca MacKinnon: : “…divided into three sections. The first section discusses the relevance of international human rights standards to U.S. internet platforms and universities. The second section identifies three common challenges to universities and internet platforms, with clear policy implications. The third section recommends approaches to internet policy that can better protect human rights and strengthen democracy. The paper concludes with proposals for how universities can contribute to the creation of a more robust digital information ecosystem that protects free speech along with other human rights, and advances social justice.

1) International human rights standards are an essential complement to the First Amendment. While the First Amendment does not apply to how privately owned and operated digital platforms set and enforce rules governing their users’ speech, international human rights standards set forth a clear framework to which companies any other type of private organization can and should be held accountable. Scholars of international law and freedom of expression point out that Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights encompasses not only free speech, but also the right to access information and to formulate opinions without interference. Notably, this aspect of international human rights law is relevant in addressing the harms caused by disinformation campaigns aided by algorithms and targeted profiling. In protecting freedom of expression, private companies and organizations must also protect and respect other human rights, including privacy, non-discrimination, assembly, the right to political participation, and the basic right to security of person.

2) Three core challenges are common to universities and internet platforms. These common challenges must be addressed in order to protect free speech alongside other fundamental human rights including non-discrimination:

Challenge 1: The pretense of neutrality amplifies bias in an unjust world. In an inequitable and unjust world, “neutral” platforms and institutions will perpetuate and even exacerbate inequities and power imbalances unless they understand and adjust for those inequities and imbalances. This fundamental civil rights concept is better understood by the leaders of universities than by those in charge of social media platforms, which have clear impact on public discourse and civic engagement.

Challenge 2: Rules and enforcement are inadequate without strong leadership and cultural norms. Rules governing speech, and their enforcement, can be ineffective and even counterproductive unless they are accompanied by values-based leadership. Institutional cultures should take into account the context and circumstances of unique situations, individuals, and communities. For rules to have legitimacy, communities that are governed by them must be actively engaged in building a shared culture of responsibility.

Challenge 3: Communities need to be able to shape how and where they enable discourse and conduct learning. Different types of discourse that serve different purposes require differently designed spaces—be they physical or digital. It is important for communities to be able to set their own rules of engagement, and shape their spaces for different types of discourse. Overdependence upon a small number of corporate-controlled platforms does not serve communities well. Online free speech not only will be better served by policies that foster competition and strengthen antitrust law; policies and resources must also support the development of nonprofit, open source, and community-driven digital public infrastructure.

3) A clear and consistent policy environment that supports civil rights objectives and is compatible with human rights standards is essential to ensure that the digital public sphere evolves in a way that genuinely protects free speech and advances social justice. Analysis of twenty different consensus declarations, charters, and principles produced by international coalitions of civil society organizations reveals broad consensus with U.S.-based advocates of civil rights-compatible technology policy….(More)”.

Malicious Uses and Abuses of Artificial Intelligence


Report by Europol, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and Trend Micro: “… looking into current and predicted criminal uses of artificial intelligence (AI)… The report provides law enforcers, policy makers and other organizations with information on existing and potential attacks leveraging AI and recommendations on how to mitigate these risks.

“AI promises the world greater efficiency, automation and autonomy. At a time where the public is getting increasingly concerned about the possible misuse of AI, we have to be transparent about the threats, but also look into the potential benefits from AI technology.” said Edvardas Šileris, Head of Europol’s Cybercrime Centre. “This report will help us not only to anticipate possible malicious uses and abuses of AI, but also to prevent and mitigate those threats proactively. This is how we can unlock the potential AI holds and benefit from the positive use of AI systems.”

The report concludes that cybercriminals will leverage AI both as an attack vector and an attack surface. Deepfakes are currently the best-known use of AI as an attack vector. However, the report warns that new screening technology will be needed in the future to mitigate the risk of disinformation campaigns and extortion, as well as threats that target AI data sets.

For example, AI could be used to support:

  • Convincing social engineering attacks at scale
  • Document-scraping malware to make attacks more efficient
  • Evasion of image recognition and voice biometrics
  • Ransomware attacks, through intelligent targeting and evasion
  • Data pollution, by identifying blind spots in detection rules..

The three organizations make several recommendations to conclude the report:

The Next Generation Humanitarian Distributed Platform


Report by Mercy Corps, the Danish Red Cross and hiveonline: “… call for the development of a shared, sector-wide “blockchain for good” to allow the aid sector to better automate and track processes in real-time, and maintain secure records. This would help modernize and coordinate the sector to reach more people as increasing threats such as pandemics, climate change and natural disasters require aid to be disbursed faster, more widely and efficiently.

A cross-sector blockchain platform – a digital database that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network – could support applications ranging from cash and voucher distribution to identity services, natural capital and carbon tracking, and donor engagement.

The report authors call for the creation of a committee to develop cross-sector governance and coordinate the implementation of a shared “Humanitarian Distributed Platform.” The authors believe the technology can help organizations fulfill commitments made to transparency, collaboration and efficiency under the Humanitarian Grand Bargain.

The report is compiled from responses of 35 survey participants, representing stakeholders in the humanitarian sector, including NGO project implementers, consultants, blockchain developers, academics, and founders. A further 39 direct interviews took place over the course of the research between July and September 2020….(More)”.

tl;dr: this AI sums up research papers in a sentence


Jeffrey M. Perkel & Richard Van Noorden at Nature: “The creators of a scientific search engine have unveiled software that automatically generates one-sentence summaries of research papers, which they say could help scientists to skim-read papers faster.

The free tool, which creates what the team calls TLDRs (the common Internet acronym for ‘Too long, didn’t read’), was activated this week for search results at Semantic Scholar, a search engine created by the non-profit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle, Washington. For the moment, the software generates sentences only for the ten million computer-science papers covered by Semantic Scholar, but papers from other disciplines should be getting summaries in the next month or so, once the software has been fine-tuned, says Dan Weld, who manages the Semantic Scholar group at AI2…

Weld was inspired to create the TLDR software in part by the snappy sentences his colleagues share on Twitter to flag up articles. Like other language-generation software, the tool uses deep neural networks trained on vast amounts of text. The team included tens of thousands of research papers matched to their titles, so that the network could learn to generate concise sentences. The researchers then fine-tuned the software to summarize content by training it on a new data set of a few thousand computer-science papers with matching summaries, some written by the papers’ authors and some by a class of undergraduate students. The team has gathered training examples to improve the software’s performance in 16 other fields, with biomedicine likely to come first.

The TLDR software is not the only scientific summarizing tool: since 2018, the website Paper Digest has offered summaries of papers, but it seems to extract key sentences from text, rather than generate new ones, Weld notes. TLDR can generate a sentence from a paper’s abstract, introduction and conclusion. Its summaries tend to be built from key phrases in the article’s text, so are aimed squarely at experts who already understand a paper’s jargon. But Weld says the team is working on generating summaries for non-expert audiences….(More)”.