On 24 June we hosted a conversation with the Lacuna Fund about datasets for climate change where we heard all about the Lacuna Fund’s recently launched Request for Proposals around Datasets for Climate Applications. We were joined by climate data users and creators from around the globe. This conversation is a part of Open Knowledge Foundation’s recent work on building a Frictionless Planet by using open tools and design principles to tackle the world’s largest problems, including climate change.

A lacuna is a gap, a blank space or a missing part of an item. Today there are gaps in the datasets that are available to train and evaluate machine learning models. This is especially true when it comes to specific populations and geographies. The Lacuna Fund was created to support data scientists in closing those gaps in machine learning datasets needed to better understand and tackle urgent problems in their communities, like those linked to the  climate crisis.

Lacuna Fund is currently accepting proposals for two climate tracks: Climate & Energy and Climate & Health. The first track is looking at the intersection between energy, climate, and green recovery, and the second focuses on health and strategies to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. Proposals should focus on machine learning datasets, either collecting and annotating new data, annotating and releasing existing data, or expanding existing datasets and increasing usability. Lacuna Fund’s guiding principles include equity, ethics, and participatory approach, and those values are very important for this work. Accordingly, proposals should include a plan for data management and licencing, privacy, and how the data will be shared. The target audience for this call is data scientists, with a focus on under-represented communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

During the call, we also discussed if participants have specific data gaps in their fields, like a lack of data on how extreme heat events affect human health. The response was a strong “Yes”! Participants described working in “data deserts” where there is often missing data, leading to less accurate machine learning algorithms. Another common issue is data quality and trust in data, especially from “official” sources. Tackling data transparency will be important for creating impactful climate policy. We’d like to ask you the same question: If your group could have access to one data set that would have a large impact on your work, what is that data set?

If you are interested in applying for the Lacuna Fund’s open requests for proposals (RFP), please check out these resources here: