According to a press release yesterday the University of Manchester received a further 8.4 Million GBP of funding from the ESRC to continue and expand its MIMAS service which provides students and researchers with free access to social science data:

The billions of data items managed by the School of Social Sciences and Manchester Information and Associated Services (MIMAS) give researchers access to the census and many national household surveys for free.

They are also a key source for data held by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) among others.

Keith Cole Deputy Director of MIMAS said: “Tens of thousands of users have used these facilities which support research both nationally and internationally.

“What makes this significant is that whereas many researchers have paid for this sort of information, our work enables them to access it for free.

“The data is free at the end point of use and chimes with the Guardian’s free our data campaign.

“The campaign wants the Government to abandon copyright on essential national data, making it freely available to anyone.”

This is good news and chimes with the comments made by John Sheridan (head of e-services at OPSI) regarding access to government data back at the Civic Information forum we ran in November (John will also be coming to speak at Open Knowledge 1.0).

One note of caution though: this project is not in fact providing Open/Open Access Data. It appears the data will only be free for access and not redistribution or reuse (that is incorporation into other datasets). Furthermore, this access is only free to researchers and students (and likely only those in the UK). Thus, while this change should be warmly welcomed as a step in the right direction there is still a long way to go to achieve truly open data.

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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.