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Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Funds Open Economics Working Group at the Open Knowledge Foundation

Velichka Dimitrova - February 23, 2012 in News, OKF Projects, Open Economics, Our Work, WG Economics

We are delighted to announce that the Open Knowledge Foundation in partnership with the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at the University of Cambridge has received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the development of an Open Economics Working Group. The aim of the working group is to encourage more active and efficient collaboration between scholars and the dissemination of economic results to the wider society (see below for more on what we will be doing).

“Open datasets have the potential to revolutionize economics as a discipline and accelerate breakthroughs in the field,” says Daniel L. Goroff, Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Support for the Open Knowledge Foundation’s work will not only help advance empirical research by academics, but also improve everyone’s understanding of important economic processes and trends.”

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance.

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

What will the Working Group be doing?

The Working Group aims to help in the development of a self-identifying and self-sustaining community of economic researchers working with open data and standards in economics. It will also assist in the creation and development of several concrete projects to accelerate open academic research and open data. The project is also expected to provide new knowledge on how to strengthen cooperation on open data between the government, academia and civil society. Specifically, we will:

  • Organise two international academic workshops on open economic data, one in the US and one in the UK
  • Maintain a website containing:
    • Documentation and guidance on legal and technical best practices for publishing economic data
    • Regular blog posts about open economic data from a variety of invited contributors
    • Information about best of breed tools for working with economic data
  • Provide a platform for sharing of economic data hosted at
  • Incubate demonstrator projects such as a project for a machine-readable format for reporting regression results making easier to find and compare results
  • Organise hackdays and other events bringing together people with different background and skills to work on project for presenting economic data to the general public.

Why does the Working Group exist?

Today, we have available the technologies and legal mechanisms to open up an unprecedented amount of information relevant to understanding economies and markets. In opening up economic data we enable it to be freely combined and redistributed with other sources of information, leading to the emergence of a richer ecosystem of information sharing and a greater ability to combine this material with the increasingly sophisticated tools for representation, visualization and analysis that are available. These developments would benefit both expert economists and the wider general public interested in economic issues.

However currently many individuals and organisations involved in publishing economic data are not making their data explicitly open and are not aware of the benefits of doing so. Moreover, now more than ever, it is imperative for us to gain a better shared picture of economies and markets around the globe, to inform policies aimed at economic recovery, to make economic decisions more transparent, and to make decision makers more accountable. From understanding the roots of the financial crisis to the impact of patents on innovation to the effectiveness of international development funding, sharing economic data more effectively is the first step towards better policies, and more collaborative research around major international problems.

Get Involved

If you are interested in getting involved:

  • Visit our Website
  • Sign up to our Mailing List
  • Attend the regular Working Group meeting: next forthcoming date: March 14, 6pm GMT
  • Follow us on Twitter: @OKFNecon and use the general hashtag: #openecon
  • Get in touch: contact the Working Group coordinator Velichka Dimitrova: velichka.dimitrova [at]

Open Economics Hackday

Velichka Dimitrova - February 1, 2012 in Events, Sprint / Hackday, WG Economics

Open Economics Hackday

Open Economics Hackday at the Barbican, London. Photo by Ilias Bartolini.

The following post is by Velichka Dimitrova coordinator of the Open Economics Working Group.

It is great to see people coming together and doing something cool on a Saturday. The Open Economics Hackday gathered more than thirty people at the Barbican and online, crafting fancy visualisations, wrangling data and being creative together.

The day was devoted to ideas in open economics, as a transparent and collaborative academic discipline, which presents research outputs in a comprehensible way to the general public.

We aimed at building Yourtopia 2, an interactive application showing the development of Italy on several key social progress indicators over time. Building on preceding experience with alternative non-GDP measures of human development (Yourtopia), the new project’s objective is to show how different progress can be in the separate Italian regions, as Italy is traditionally a country with stark regional inequalities.

Although originally used as a term for the gatherings of computer programmers, the Open Economics Hackday was open to people with different backgrounds and various skills. Programmers were creating bits of code, data journalists were gathering and processing data, economists were making sure the project concept addresses key problems in this field of research.

Would you like to help finish the Yourtopia 2 application? Please join the follow-up online meeting this Saturday at 2pm GMT. Confirm your participation by typing in your name on the Etherpad:

Introducing the Open Knowledge Index

Guo Xu - August 26, 2011 in Open Economics, Sprint / Hackday, WG Economics, Working Groups

The following post is from Guo Xu, Coordinator of the Open Economics Working Group

Despite the increasing efforts in opening data and making information and knowledge accessible to a greater audience, there has not been an explicit way to measure openess in knowledge creation and dissemination. This has made it very difficult to compare country performance as well as tracking one country’s progress over time.

We at the Open Economics Working Group had a first attempt to create an “Open Knowledge Index” to fill this gap. Early this week during a virtual sprint, seven of our members worked together to create the conceptual framework, gather the data and construct a first version for the set of OECD + BRIC countries. Here are the (preliminary) results (a technical explanation of the construction is here):

Not surprisingly, there is a high correlation between a country’s wealth and its rank in providing Open Knowledge (Iceland leads the list). But a large fraction of the variation in the Open Knowledge Index cannot be explained by wealth alone – a good example here is Estonia, still an emerging country but one with the highest internet penetration rates in the world.

As this is only a first version, we would be happy for any comments and feedbacks you may have. We are also looking for more volunteers who might be interested in joining our project – this can be by helping to improve the conceptual part of the index, by gathering data or improving the visualization. If you are interested, please get in touch with our Working Group by signing up and writing to the mailing list.


Guo Xu - January 12, 2011 in Open Data, Visualization

The following post is from Dirk Heine, a member of the new OKF Working Group on Economics and a member of the

Today we’re announcing a simple new app (also submitted to World Bank Apps competition) that allows anyone to say what kind of world, what ‘YourTopia’, they would like to live in:

As well as having a very simple function: to tell you what country is closest to your ideal, the app also has a very serious purpose: to help us develop a real empirical basis for the measures of development that are used to guide policy-making.

Is health more important than education, or GDP, is the amount of R&D more important than amount spent on primary education? Help us find out what the world thinks!

You can see the app in action in the following video, or head over directly YourTopia and answer the 2-minute quiz.

More Information

Development Economics has for a long time recognised the deficiency of GDP as an indicator of human development but with little reception in policy-circles. Recently, however, the debate changed and no month passes now without a high-level report on “Development beyond GDP”.

OKFN’s new Open Economics Group has now constructed an application to test two solutions to primary problems in this debate, and it is participating in the World Bank’s competition “Applications for Development“.

Measures of human progress beyond GDP either use so-called dashboards of indicators (e.g. WDI) or composite indices (e.g. HDI or MPI). An openness-problem with the first approach has been that dashboards were so complex that the public was de facto excluded from the debate. The second approach tried to simplify through combining different dimensions into a single index but then suffered from arbitrary assumptions on the choice of weights applied to indices and choice of proxies for different development dimensions.

These are significant problems and so we’ve created Yourtopia, as the first application that produces a composite index of human development (OpenHDI) without arbitrary choices of indicator-weights and proxy choices.

We circumvent these problems simply: by letting the user participate. Rather than the researcher selecting proxies and indicator-weights we let the user choose. The resulting index of human progress is then personalised and contains no arbitrary assumptions by construction.

While the constructors of the HDI, for example, was always attacked for their assumption that human progress just depends on education, health and income and that these each carried the same importance, we now let the user decide which dimensions of progress are important and how they compare to each other.

Get Involved

We’d love to improve YourTopia in lots of ways and we need help with design, coding (python or javascript), and writing (from both an economists and a layman’s point of view!) (for example what does GNI in PPP terms mean to most people — we need translators from jargon to English!).

If you’re interested in helping please send either join the open-economics mailing list or just send a mail to info [at] okfn [dot] org.


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