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Building an archaeological project repository I: Open Science means Open Data

Guest - February 24, 2014 in CKAN, Open Science, WG Archaeology

This is a guest post by Anthony Beck, Honorary fellow, and Dave Harrison, Research fellow, at the University of Leeds School of Computing.

In 2010 we authored a series of blog posts for the Open Knowledge Foundation subtitled ‘How open approaches can empower archaeologists’. These discussed the DART project, which is on the cusp of concluding.

The DART project collected large amounts of data, and as part of the project, we created a purpose-built data repository to catalogue this and make it available, using CKAN, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open-source data catalogue and repository. Here we revisit the need for Open Science in the light of the DART project. In a subsequent post we’ll look at why, with so many repositories of different kinds, we felt that to do Open Science successfully we needed to roll our own.

Open data can change science

Open inquiry is at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Publication of scientific theories – and of the experimental and observational data on which they are based – permits others to identify errors, to support, reject or refine theories and to reuse data for further understanding and knowledge. Science’s powerful capacity for self-correction comes from this openness to scrutiny and challenge. (The Royal Society, Science as an open enterprise, 2012)

The Royal Society’s report Science as an open enterprise identifies how 21st century communication technologies are changing the ways in which scientists conduct, and society engages with, science. The report recognises that ‘open’ enquiry is pivotal for the success of science, both in research and in society. This goes beyond open access to publications (Open Access), to include access to data and other research outputs (Open Data), and the process by which data is turned into knowledge (Open Science).

The underlying rationale of Open Data is this: unfettered access to large amounts of ‘raw’ data enables patterns of re-use and knowledge creation that were previously impossible. The creation of a rich, openly accessible corpus of data introduces a range of data-mining and visualisation challenges, which require multi-disciplinary collaboration across domains (within and outside academia) if their potential is to be realised. An important step towards this is creating frameworks which allow data to be effectively accessed and re-used. The prize for succeeding is improved knowledge-led policy and practice that transforms communities, practitioners, science and society.

The need for such frameworks will be most acute in disciplines with large amounts of data, a range of approaches to analysing the data, and broad cross-disciplinary links – so it was inevitable that they would prove important for our project, Detection of Archaeological residues using Remote sensing Techniques (DART).

DART: data-driven archaeology

DART aimed is to develop analytical methods to differentiate archaeological sediments from non-archaeological strata, on the basis of remotely detected phenomena (e.g. resistivity, apparent dielectric permittivity, crop growth, thermal properties etc). The data collected by DART is of relevance to a broad range of different communities. Open Science was adopted with two aims:

  • to maximise the research impact by placing the project data and the processing algorithms into the public sphere;
  • to build a community of researchers and other end-users around the data so that collaboration, and by extension research value, can be enhanced.

‘Contrast dynamics’, the type of data provided by DART, is critical for policy makers and curatorial managers to assess both the state and the rate of change in heritage landscapes, and helps to address European Landscape Convention (ELC) commitments. Making the best use of the data, however, depends on openly accessible dynamic monitoring, along the lines of that developed for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellations under development by the European Space Agency. What is required is an accessible framework which allows all this data to be integrated, processed and modelled in a timely manner.

It is critical that policy makers and curatorial managers are able to assess both the state and the rate of change in heritage landscapes. This need is wrapped up in national commitments to the European Landscape Convention (ELC). Making the best use of the data, however, depends on openly accessible dynamic monitoring, along similar lines to that proposed by the European Space Agency for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellations. What is required is an accessible framework which allows all this data to be integrated, processed and modelled in a timely manner. The approaches developed in DART to improve the understanding and enhance the modelling of heritage contrast detection dynamics feeds directly into this long-term agenda.

Cross-disciplinary research and Open Science

Such approaches cannot be undertaken within a single domain of expertise. This vision can only be built by openly collaborating with other scientists and building on shared data, tools and techniques. Important developments will come from the GMES community, particularly from precision agriculture, soil science, and well documented data processing frameworks and services. At the same time, the information collected by projects like DART can be re-used easily by others. For example, DART data has been exploited by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) for use in such applications as carbon sequestration in hedges, soil management, soil compaction and community mapping. Such openness also promotes collaboration: DART partners have been involved in a number of international grant proposals and have developed a longer term partnership with the RAU.

Open Science advocates opening access to data, and other scientific objects, at a much earlier stage in the research life-cycle than traditional approaches. Open Scientists argue that research synergy and serendipity occur through openly collaborating with other researchers (more eyes/minds looking at the problem). Of great importance is the fact that the scientific process itself is transparent and can be peer reviewed: as a result of exposing data and the processes by which these data are transformed into information, other researchers can replicate and validate the techniques. As a consequence, we believe that collaboration is enhanced and the boundaries between public, professional and amateur are blurred.

Challenges ahead for Open Science

Whilst DART has not achieved all its aims, it has made significant progress and has identified some barriers in achieving such open approaches. Key to this is the articulation of issues surrounding data-access (accreditation), licensing and ethics. Who gets access to data, when, and under what conditions, is a serious ethical issue for the heritage sector. These are obviously issues that need co-ordination through organisations like Research Councils UK with cross-cutting input from domain groups. The Arts and Humanities community produce data and outputs with pervasive social and ethical impact, and it is clearly important that they have a voice in these debates.

Gauging the needs and challenges of the global open data community

Guest - February 21, 2014 in Global Open Data Initiative, Open Government Data

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This is a guest blog post by Julia Keserü, International Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation, which partners alongside ao. the Open Knowledge Foundation in the Global Open Data Initiative. Originally featured on the blog of the initiative.

A few months back, the Global Open Data Initiative (GODI) sought input from the transparency community to learn more about the needs and challenges associated with open data. We wanted to know what definitions, guidelines and resources the community relies on, what is missing to improve the work of our fellow practitioners and how a global initiative might be helpful to boost reform.

Through a survey and a series of interviews, we gathered anecdotes, lessons and inspiration from about 80 individuals in 32 different countries with diverse professional backgrounds – research/education, business/consulting, advocacy. What follows is a summary of our most interesting findings. For more, take a look at the full report here.

Open data – standards, guides and definitions

Most interviewees agreed that the basic definition of open data is government proactively publishing data online. However, in many countries, data is frequently perceived as a product of civil society organizations’ efforts – through freedom of information requests or website scraping – rather than a timely and trustable resource provided by governments. Practical openness is also seen as being contingent on the usability of data to those who are seeking to create change with it.

Despite widespread agreement that standards are important, in practice, the interviewees did not seem to be overly focused on them. In some regions, such as Latin America, practitioners are often unaware that open data standards and guidelines existed, due in part to the limited availability of Spanish language resources. Many noted that the term open data is too dry and technical, which might impede evangelizing efforts.

The community

Global networks seem to play an extremely important role in sharing knowledge and learning from each others’ experiences. Many are eager for GODI to help connect the different strands of the open data movement and provide a place for people to come and find potential partners and collaborators. A few mentioned a need to connect those working on open data at the national level to the international conversation and spread the word beyond the existing transparency community.

Interacting with governments

As expected, knowledge of open data is typically isolated within relevant departments and branches of government. Opening up data for ensuring transparency and accountability is still too often met with resistance and suspicion. Several organizations and individuals noted that their ability to interact and engage with public officials diminishes notably when they are seeking politically sensitive datasets — like company registers, budgets, or campaign finance information. There was widespread agreement that achieving data disclosure policies required a combination of both legislative and persuasive tactics.

Challenges

Unsurprisingly, the challenges faced by the majority of people we heard from could be boiled down to politics, access to data, data quality, and engagement. Many faced political resistance from governments unwilling to release data in the first place and the lack of good freedom of information laws in many countries is still inhibiting the development of open data.

On top of these, there is a certain confusion around open data and big data, and the community is in desperate need of credible impact studies that can provide a strong theory of change. Some regions, such as the African continent, are historically known to be burdened by issues of poor infrastructure and connectivity – data needs to be presented in more innovative ways there.

Opportunities for the open data community

There was a general consensus that a better networked global open data community could improve the way organizations collaborate, find partners, and prevent duplicating efforts. Many agreed that a large civil society alliance could offer the clout necessary to push for national agendas around open government. It could also help the reform agenda by articulating an open data solution that fits into the domain of transparency and create a feedback loop for accountability.

And lastly: the open data community would benefit immensely from a more clearly defined evidence base and theory of change associated with open data. We need proof that open data can be valuable in a variety of country contexts and for a variety of reasons such as economic development, accountable government or more effective public sector management.

Enter the Partnership for Open Data’s Impact Stories Competition!

Rahul Ghosh - February 20, 2014 in Open Data, Partnership for Open Data

We want to know how opening up data impact those in developing countries. The Partnership for Open Data (POD) is a partnership of institutions to research, support, train and promote open data in the context of low and middle income countries. We invite you to share with us your stories about how open data has positively impacted you, or those around you; technologically, politically, commercially, environmentally, socially, or in any other way.

banner POD

How has Open Data impacted you and your community?

Over the last decade, Open Data initiatives have become increasingly popular with both governments and civil society organisations. Through these initiatives they hope to tap into its potential benefits of innovation, delivery of better services more cost effectively, combating climate change, improving urban planning, and reducing corruption; to name but just a few of the possibilities.

This is the chance to tell your inspiring stories, and get them published.

A grand prize of $1000 (USD) is on offer and there are 2 x $500 (USD) runner up prizes!

This competition is being run by the Open Knowledge Foundation as part of the Partnership for Open Data, a joint initiative of the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Open Data Institute, and The World Bank.

Click to Enter the Competition.

Closing Date: 24th March 2014

Winners will be announced within three weeks of the closing date. Terms and Conditions apply.

Mapping the Open Spending Data Community

Neil Ashton - January 6, 2014 in Featured, Open Spending

Mapping the Open Spending Data Community

We’re pleased to announce the official release of “Mapping the Open Spending Data Community” by Anders Pedersen and Lucy Chambers, an in-depth look at how citizens, journalists, and civil society organisations around the world are using data on government finances to further their civic missions.

The investigation began in 2012 with three goals:

  • To identify Civil Society organisations (CSOs) around the world who are interested in working with government financial data
  • To connect these CSOs with each other, with open data communities, and with other key stakeholders to exchange knowledge, experiences, and best practices in relation to spending data
  • To discover how CSOs currently work with spending data, how they would like to use it, and what they would like to achieve

This report is the result. It brings together key case studies from organisations who have done pioneering work in using technology to work with public finance data in each of budgets, spending, and procurements, and it presents a curated selection of tools and other advice in an appendix.

As part of this research, we’ve also produced a four-part video series “Athens to Berlin“, which you can watch to meet some of the fascinating characters in the world of CSOs working with government spending data and to learn firsthand about their successes and their challenges.

Originally Published on the Open Spending Blog Jan 3rd, 2014

Extended: Open Data Scoping Terms of Reference

Heather Leson - December 31, 2013 in Open Data, Open Data Partnership For Development

The Open Data Partnership for Development Scoping Terms of Reference deadline has been extended until January 13, 2014. We have received some great submissions and want to give more people the best opportunity to tackle the project. Truly, we recognize that the holiday season is a busy time.

The Open Data Partnership for Development Scoping Terms of Reference opened on December 11, 2013 and will close on January 13, 2014 at 17:00 GMT.

Updated Open Data Partnership for Development – Scoping Terms of Reference

Help us get a current state Open Data Activity snapshot to guide our decisions for the Open Data Partnership for Development programmes. Proposals for a Scoping Analysis will address two objectives:

  • (i) identify potential funders and the key delivery partners in the Open Data ecosystem, and
  • (ii) map the existing efforts to support open data in developing countries and their status.

More about Open Data Partnership for Development

Happy New Year.

“Share, improve and reuse public sector data” – French Government unveils new CKAN-based data.gouv.fr

Guest - December 26, 2013 in CKAN, OKF France, Open Data, Open Government Data

This is a guest post from Rayna Stamboliyska and Pierre Chrzanowski of the Open Knowledge Foundation France

Etalab, the Prime Minister’s task force for Open Government Data, unveiled on December 18 the new version of the data.gouv.fr platform (1). OKF France salutes the work the Etalab team has accomplished, and welcomes the new features and the spirit of the new portal, rightly summed up in the website’s baseline, “share, improve and reuse public sector data”.

OKF France was represented by Samuel Goëta at the data.gouv.fr launch event OKF France was represented at the data.gouv.fr launch event by Samuel Goëta in the presence of Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister of France, Fleur Pellerin, Minister Delegate for Small and Medium Enterprises, Innovation, and the Digital Economy and Marylise Lebranchu, Minister of the Reform of the State. Photo credit: Yves Malenfer/Matignon

Etalab has indeed chosen to offer a platform resolutely turned towards collaboration between data producers and re-users. The website now enables everyone not only to improve and enhance the data published by the government, but also to share their own data; to our knowledge, a world first for a governmental open data portal. In addition to “certified” data (i.e., released by departments and public authorities), data.gouv.fr also hosts data published by local authorities, delegated public services and NGOs. Last but not least, the platform also identifies and highlights other, pre-existing, Open Data portals such as nosdonnees.fr (2). A range of content publishing features, a wiki and the possibility of associating reuses such as visualizations should also allow for a better understanding of the available data and facilitate outreach efforts to the general public.

We at OKF France also welcome the technological choices Etalab made. The new data.gouv.fr is built around CKAN, the open source software whose development is coordinated by the Open Knowledge Foundation. All features developed by the Etalab team will be available for other CKAN-based portals (e.g., data.gov or data.gov.uk). In turn, Etalab may more easily master innovations implemented by others.

The new version of the platform clearly highlights the quality rather than quantity of datasets. This paradigm shift was expected by re-users. On one hand, datasets with local coverage have been pooled thus providing nation-wide coverage. On the other hand, the rating system values datasets with the widest geographical and temporal coverage as well as the highest granularity.

Screenshot from data.gouv.fr home page

The platform will continue to evolve and we hope that other features will soon complete this new version, for example:

  • the ability to browse data by facets (data producers, geographical coverage or license, etc.);
  • a management system for “certified” (clearly labelled institutional producer) and “non-certified” (data modified, produced, added by citizens) versions of a dataset;
  • a tool for previewing data, as natively proposed by CKAN;
  • the ability to comment on the datasets;
  • a tool that would allow to enquire about a dataset directly at the respective public administration.

Given this new version of data.gouv.fr, it is now up to the producers and re-users of public sector data to demonstrate the potential of Open Data. This potential can only be fully met with the release of fundamental public sector data as a founding principle for our society. Thus, we are still awaiting for the opening of business registers, detailed expenditures as well as non-personal data on prescriptions issued by healthcare providers.

Lastly, through the new data.gouv.fr, administrations are no longer solely responsible for the common good that is public sector data. Now this responsibility is shared with all stakeholders. It is thus up to all of us to demonstrate that this is the right choice.


(1) This new version of data.gouv.fr is the result of codesign efforts that the Open Knowledge Foundation France participated in.

(2) Nosdonnees.fr is co-managed by Regards Citoyens and OKF France.

Read Etalab’s press release online here

2013 – A great year for CKAN

Darwin Peltan - December 24, 2013 in CKAN

2013 has seen CKAN and the CKAN community go from strength to strength. Here are some of the highlights.

Screenshot from CKAN demo site

February

May

June

July

August

  • CKAN 2.1 released with new capabilities for managing bulk datasets amongst many other improvements

September

October

  • Substantial new version of CKAN’s geospatial extension, including pycsw and MapBox integration and revised and expanded docs.

November

  • Future City Glasgow launch open.glasgow.gov.uk prototype as part of their TSB funded Future Cities Demonstrator programme

December

Looking forward

The CKAN community is growing incredibly quickly so we’re looking forward to seeing what people do with CKAN in 2014.

So if your city, region or state hasn’t already done so, why not make 2014 the year that you launch your own CKAN powered open data portal?

Download CKAN or contact us if you need help getting started.

This post was cross posted from the CKAN blog

A report from the Ibrahim Governance Weekend

Mark Wainwright - December 13, 2013 in Events, Open Data Partnership For Development

Early last month I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation‘s annual governance weekend, including the celebrated Ibrahim Forum. The MIF, headed by the eponymous and irrepressible Mo, does amazing work promoting good governance in Africa. It’s perhaps best known for its incredibly comprehensive Governance Index.

Despite the terrible score of his native Somalia on his own Governance Index, Mo is much keener on celebrating all that is young and joyful and promising in Africa than telling dismal stories about its problems. Which is why the weekend began on a Friday evening in Addis Ababa stadium, with an exhibition football match between a local side and the continent’s most feared team, TP Mazembe from the DRC — the visitors easily winning 3-1 — followed by a pop concert.

[IMG: Kumi Naidoo speaking]
Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace speaking at the Ibrahim Forum

The more serious part of the weekend was a reception on Saturday evening, including a fun mixture of politics and music, and the forum itself on the Sunday with a series of high-quality panel discussions on directions for African development, governance, integration and security. This year’s meeting was in Addis Ababa, home of the African Union, to coincide with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the AU’s founding (as the OAU) in 1963.

The MIF’s aim of good governance is, of course, very much aligned with the aims of the Open Knowledge Foundation. It was good to hear the importance of open data stressed by some of the speakers. Among others Trevor Manuel, minister in charge of the National Planning Commission in South Africa, made the point that the work of building stability must start with reliable, accessible statistics. The OKF will be increasing its involvement in the region through its involvement in the Open Data Partnership for Development, a partnership with the World Bank and the Open Data Institute to increase the amount and impact of Open Data in developing countries.

Though it was a flying visit, I did have time for a whistle-stop tour of Addis Ababa. In the National Museum of Ethiopia it was particularly exciting to see Lucy, the famous skeleton of a member of what may have been our earliest upright ancestor species, as well as the earliest known human remains. As H.E. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the African Union Commission, said in her address, ‘Welcome home to Ethiopia – wherever in the world you are from, this is your home.’

Scoping Terms of Reference – Open Data Partnership For Development

Heather Leson - December 12, 2013 in Open Data Partnership For Development

What is the state of Open Data activities globally? Who is working on what and where? Where are opportunities to be fostered in the developing world?

The Open Data Partnership for Development is a partnership between The World Bank, Open Data Institute (ODI) and Open Knowledge Foundation. Initial funding of $1.25 million in the first year comes from The World Bank’s Development Grant Facility. We are actively seeking additional partners to join our efforts.

Update: The Open Data Partnership for Development Scoping Terms of Reference deadline has been changed to January 13, 2014.


Submit your Scoping Proposal today!

The ODP4D team seeks candidates to conduct a Scoping Terms of Reference. Help us get a current state Open Data Activity snapshot to guide our decisions for the Open Data Partnership for Development programmes. Proposals for a Scoping Analysis will address two objectives: (i) identify potential funders and the key delivery partners in the Open Data ecosystem, and (ii) map the existing efforts to support open data in developing countries and their status.

The Scoping Terms of Reference (tender) is open from today until January 14, 2014 17:00 GMT:

UPDATED: Open Data Partnership for Development: Scoping Terms of Reference

School of Data - Training Curriculum Sprint

School of Data – Training Curriculum Sprint

In the meantime, the ODP4D team is preparing training programmes for governments, civil society organizations and partners. This scoping exercise will inform all the programme outputs. We can’t wait to get started! Please contact us for more details.

See previous Open Data Partnership for Development posts:

The Public Domain “Class of 2014″

Adam Green - December 12, 2013 in Public Domain, Public Domain Review

This is a cross-post from The Public Domain Review, a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation.


Top Row (left to right): George Washington Carver; Sergei Rachmaninoff; Shaul Tchernichovsky
Middle Row (left to right): Sophie Taeuber-Arp; Nikola Tesla; Kostis Palamas; Max Wertheimer
Bottom Row (left to right): Simone Weil; Chaim Soutine; Fats Waller; Beatrix Potter



Pictured above is our top pick of people whose works will, on 1st January 2014, be entering the public domain in those countries with a ‘life plus 70 years’ copyright term (e.g. most European Union members, Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, etc.). As usual it’s an eclectic bunch who have assembled for our graduation photo – including two very different geniuses of the piano, a French mystic, the creator of Peter Rabbit, one of the 20th century’s most important inventors, a poet who penned the Olympic Hymn, and a man known as the “Black Leonardo” who pretty much single-handedly created the peanut industry. The unifying factor bringing them all together is that all died in the year of 1943, and so their works, in many places, will be given a new lease of life as they pass into the public domain.

Below is a little bit more about each of their lives (with each name linking through to their respective Wikipedia pages, from which each text has been based).



BEATRIX POTTER


Beatrix Potter (28th July 1866 – 22nd December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. As a young woman Potter developed a keen interest in drawing, in particular animals, real and imagined, and also insects, fossils, archaeological artefacts, and fungi – and would often fill letters to friends with illustrations. In September 1893, at the age of 27, Potter was on holiday in Perthshire and, running out of things to say in a letter to the ill son of her former governess, she told him a story about “four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.” It became one of the most famous children’s letters ever written and the basis of Potter’s future career as a writer-artist-storyteller. Eight years later Potter published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, first privately in 1901, and a year later as a small, three-colour illustrated book with Frederick Warne & Co. It would be the first of a series of twenty three extremely popular “tales” involving the exploits of various anthropomorphised animals who lived in the English countryside. Potter was also a great conservationist and with the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, she purchased a whole series of farms in the lake District in order to preserve the unique hill country landscape. When she died on 22 December 1943 at her home in Near Sawrey at age 77, she left almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park.


SERGEI RACHMANINOFF


Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1st April 1873 – 28th March 1943) was a Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and his use of rich orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff’s compositional output, and through his own skills as a performer, helped by his enormous hands, he made huge steps in exploring the expressive possibilities of the instrument.


FATS WALLER


Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller (21st May 1904 – 15th December 1943) was an influential jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano, and whose best-known compositions, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame posthumously, in 1984 and 1999. Waller was one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in his homeland and in Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Squeeze Me”. Fellow pianist and composer Oscar Levant dubbed Waller “the black Horowitz”. Waller composed many novelty tunes in the 1920s and 1930s and sold them for relatively small sums. When the compositions became hits, other songwriters claimed them as their own. Many standards are alternatively and sometimes controversially attributed to Waller. In one now legendary story, Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in 1926. Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by the mobster Al Capone. Waller was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realised he was the “surprise guest” at Capone’s birthday party. According to rumour, Waller played for three days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.


NIKOLA TESLA


Nikola Tesla (10th July 1856 – 7th January 1943) was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before emigrating to the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison. He soon struck out on his own with financial backers, setting up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices. His patented AC induction motor and transformer were licensed by George Westinghouse, who also hired Tesla as a consultant to help develop a power system using alternating current. Tesla is also known for his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs which included patented devices and theoretical work used in the invention of radio communication, for his X-ray experiments, and for his ill-fated attempt at intercontinental wireless transmission in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project. Tesla’s achievements and his abilities as a showman demonstrating his seemingly miraculous inventions made him world-famous and gained him a reputation as an archetypical “mad scientist”.


CHAIM SOUTINE


Chaïm Soutine (13th January 1893 – 9th August 1943) was a French painter of Belarusian Jewish origin who made a major contribution to the expressionist movement while living in Paris. Inspired by classic painting in the European tradition, exemplified by the works of Rembrandt, Chardin and Courbet, Soutine developed an individual style more concerned with shape, color, and texture over representation, which served as a bridge between more traditional approaches and the developing form of Abstract Expressionism. He once horrified his neighbours by keeping an animal carcass in his studio so that he could paint it (Carcass of Beef). The stench drove them to send for the police, whom Soutine promptly lectured on the relative importance of art over hygiene. There’s a story that Marc Chagall saw the blood from the carcass leak out onto the corridor outside Soutine’s room, and rushed out screaming, ‘Someone has killed Soutine.’ Soutine painted 10 works in this series, which have since become his most well-known. His carcass paintings were inspired by Rembrandt’s still life of the same subject, which he discovered while studying the Old Masters in the Louvre. In February 2006, the oil painting from this series called ‘Le Boeuf Écorché’ (1924) sold for a record £7.8 million ($13.8 million) to an anonymous buyer at a Christie’s auction held in London – after it was estimated to fetch £4.8 million.


SIMONE WEIL


Simone Weil (3rd February 1909 – 24th August 1943) was a French philosopher, Christian mystic, and political activist. Weil’s life was marked by an exceptional compassion for the suffering of others; at the age of six, for instance, she refused to eat sugar after she heard that soldiers fighting in World War I had to go without. After her graduation from formal education, Weil became a teacher. She taught intermittently throughout the 1930s, taking several breaks due to poor health and to devote herself to political activism, work that would see her assisting in the trade union movement, taking the side of the Republican faction in the Spanish Civil War, and spending more than a year working as a labourer, mostly in auto factories, so she could better understand the working class. Taking a path that was unusual among twentieth-century left-leaning intellectuals, she became more religious and inclined towards mysticism as her life progressed. Weil wrote throughout her life, though most of her writings did not attract much attention until after her death. Although sometimes described as odd, humourless, and irritating, she inspired great affection in many of those who knew her. Albert Camus described her as “the only great spirit of our times”. She died from tuberculosis during World War II, possibly exacerbated by malnutrition after refusing to eat more than the minimal rations that she believed were available to soldiers at the time.


MAX WERTHEIMER


Max Wertheimer (15th April 1880 – 12th October 1943) was a Prague-born psychologist who was, along with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler, one of the three founders of Gestalt psychology: a theory of mind and brain which sees the brain as holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies. The principle maintains that the human eye sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts, suggesting the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Wertheimer is best known for his work Productive Thinking, as well as his idea of Phi Phenomenon, both important in the founding and development of Gestalt psychology.


SOPHIE TAEUBER_ARP


Sophie Taeuber-Arp (19th January 1889 – 13th January 1943) was a Swiss artist, painter, sculptor, and dancer. She is considered one of the most important artists of geometric abstraction of the 20th century, her textile and graphic works from around 1916 through the 1920s being among among the earliest examples of Constructivism, along with those of Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich. During this period, she was involved in the Zürich Dada movement, which centred on the Cabaret Voltaire, and she took part in Dada-inspired performances as a dancer, choreographer, and puppeteer. At the opening of the Galerie Dada in 1917, she danced to poetry by Hugo Ball wearing a shamanic mask by Marcel Janco. A year later, she was a co-signer of the Zurich Dada Manifesto. In the late 20s Taeuber-Arp moved with her husband, the Dada artist Jean Arp, to Paris. In the 30s, she became a member of the group Cercle et Carré, a standard-bearer of nonfigurative art, and its successor, the Abstraction-Création group; and in the late 1930s she founded a Constructivist review, Plastique (Plastic) in Paris. Her circle of friends included the artists Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp. In 1940, Taeuber-Arp and Arp fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and moved to Grasse in Southern France, where they created an art colony with Sonia Delaunay and other artists. In 1943, during a visit to Switzerland, Taeuber-Arp died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning stove.


GEORGE WASHINGTON-CARVER


George Washington Carver (by January 1864 – 5th January 1943), was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. The exact day and year of his birth are unknown; he is believed to have been born into slavery in Missouri in January 1864. Carver’s reputation is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, which also aided nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. He also developed and promoted about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin, and hundreds of more uses for soybeans and sweet potatoes. During the Reconstruction-era South, monoculture of cotton depleted the soil in many areas and in the early 20th century the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop, and planters and farm workers suffered. Carver’s work on peanuts was intended to provide an alternative crop and was vital for the rejuvenation of the blighted region. He received numerous honours for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo”. Two years later he died after taking a fall: on his grave was written, He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.


SHAUL TCHERNICHOVSKY


Shaul Tchernichovsky (20th August 1875 – 14th October 1943) was a Russian-born Hebrew poet, considered one of the great poets of the Hebrew language. Born into a small village in the Crimea (now part of Ukraine), he published his first poems in Odessa where he studied from 1890 to 1892. From 1899 to 1906 he studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, finishing his medical studies in Lausanne. From then on, he mingled his activities as a doctor with his activities as a poet. After completing his studies he returned to Ukraine to practice in Kharkov and in Kiev and then served in the First World War as an army doctor in Minsk and in Saint Petersburg. From 1925 to 1932 he was one of the editors of the newspaper Hatekufa and in 1931 immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine where he settled permanently. Besides being a poet, Tchernichovsky was known as an excellent translator. His translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey particularly earned recognition. He also translated Sophocles, Horace, Shakespeare, Molière, Pushkin, Goethe, Heine, Byron, Shelley, the Kalevala, the Gilgamesh Cycle, the Icelandic Edda, etc. He was also a friend of the distinguished Klausner family of Jerusalem, including the child who would grow up to become the novelist Amos Oz, to whom he was known as “Uncle Shaul.”


KOSTIS PALAMAS


Kostis Palamas (13th January 1859 – 27th February 1943) was a Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn. He was a central figure of the Greek literary generation of the 1880s and one of the cofounders of the so-called New Athenian School (or Palamian School, or Second Athenian School) along with Georgios Drosinis, Nikos Kampas, Ioanis Polemis. He has been informally called the “national” poet of Greece and was closely associated with the struggle to rid Modern Greece of the “purist” language and with political liberalism. He dominated literary life for 30 or more years and greatly influenced the entire political-intellectual climate of his time. Romain Rolland considered him the greatest poet of Europe and he was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature but never received it. His most important poem, “The Twelve Lays of the Gypsy” (1907), is a poetical and philosophical journey. His “Gypsy” is a free-thinking, intellectual rebel, a Greek Gypsy in a post-classical, post-Byzantine Greek world, an explorer of work, love, art, country, history, religion and science, keenly aware of his roots and of the contradictions between his classical and Christian heritages.



And a few others that didn’t make it to the class photo….

Frida Uhl, Stephen Haggard, John Harvey Kellog , Pieter Cornelis Boutens, Stephen Vincent Benét, Oskar Schlemmer , Jovan Dučić , Geoffrey Shaw, Franz Oppenheimer, Max Reinhardt, Robert Antoine Pinchon,

Some people you think we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments!



Class of 2014 for those countries with a ‘life plus 50 years’ copyright term


There is also of course a Class of 2014 for those countries with a ‘life plus 50 years’ copyright term – including Canada, many countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. Some might argue that they’ve got an even more impressive line up! Their list of all-star graduates include:

Robert Frost

Sylvia Plath

William Carlos Williams

Louis MacNeice

Jean Cocteau

C. S. Lewis

Aldous Huxley





To learn more about Public Domain Day visit publicdomainday.org. For more names whose works will be going into the public domain in 2014 see the Wikipedia page on 1943 deaths , 1963 deaths, and this great page dedicated to the public domain in 2014.

We also came across this great public domain advent calendar project (in French).

Wondering what published works will enter the public domain in the U.S.? …Nothing.

Wondering if “bad things happen to works when they enter the public domain”? Wonder no more.

(Learn more about the situation in the U.S. and why the public domain is important in this article in Huff Post Books and this from the Duke Law School’s Centre for the Study of the Public Domain).