We are excited to announce that Open Knowledge International has received $700,000 in funding from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation over two years to work on a broad range of activities to enable better research and more effective civic tech through our Frictionless Data initiative. The funding will target standards work, tooling, and infrastructure around “data packages” as well as piloting and outreach activities to support researchers and civic technologists in addressing real problems encountered when working with data.

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.  

“Analyzing and working with data is a significant (and growing) source of pain for researchers of all types”, says Josh Greenberg, Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We are excited to support Open Knowledge International in this critical area. This support will help data-intensive researchers to be more efficient and effective.”

What is being funded?

The funding will support three key streams of work around data packages: (a) the further development of the data package suite of standards, (b) the creation and enhancement of a suite of tools and integrations around these standards, and (c) broad outreach and engagement to educate researchers about the benefits of this approach.



The Data Package standard is a simple, lightweight specification for packaging all types of data, but we have a special emphasis on tabular (e.g. CSV) data. As the sources of useful data grow, effective data-driven research is becoming more and more critical. Such research often depends on cleaning and validating data, as well as combining such data from multiple sources, processes that are still frequently manual, tedious, and error-prone.  Data packages allow for the greater automation of these processes, thereby eliminating the “friction” involved.  

Tooling and Integration

A key aspect of this work is that it aligns with researchers’ usual tools and will require few or no changes to existing data and data structures.  To do this, we are seeking to build and support integrations with popular tools for research, for example, R, STATA, LibreOffice, etc.  In addition, we are looking to define ways of seamless translating datasets to and from typical file formats used across various research communities such as HDF5, NetCDF, etc.

Community Outreach

While our core mission is to design a well defined set of specifications and build a rich and vibrant ecosystem of tooling around them, none of this is possible without also building a broad awareness of data packages, where to use them and their utility, and a sustainable group of engaged users to support this.  To make our work in this area as effective as possible, we are building partnerships with organizations in research, civic tech, as well as government.

Be a part of the Frictionless Data future

We are looking to discover much more about the needs of different research groups and to identify the problems they might currently have.  To do this, we are running targeted pilots to trial these tools and specifications on real data.

Are you a researcher looking for better tooling to manage your data?  

Do you work at or represent an organization working on issues related to research data like DataCite, DataONE, RDA, or CODATA and would like to work with us on complementary issues for which data packages are suited?

Are you a developer and have an idea for something we can build together?

Are you a student looking to learn more about data wrangling, managing research data, or open data in general?

If any of the above apply to you, email us at frictionless@okfn.org.  We’d love to hear from you.  If you have any other questions or comments about this initiative, please visit this topic in our forum: https://discuss.okfn.org/t/sloan-foundation-funds-frictionless-data-at-open-knowledge/1928 or hashtag #frictionlessdata. 

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