As a science company whose commercial model is built on collaboration, data plays a big part in our business.
For example, when we assess a business case for a potential collaboration there’s often due diligence to be done not only on the business opportunity but also the scientific aspect, so as well as financial figures and market statistics we also want to find technical information and research data.
But sourcing relevant, accurate and up-to-date data can be difficult, if not impossible. Even if the data we require has been published it can be hard to access, often buried deep on commercial, governmental or academic websites and not easily discoverable by search engines.
Sometimes even trying to track down a specific dataset that you know exists can be a time-consuming and ultimately fruitless task.
To be able to find that data quickly would save us valuable time and resources and leave us much better informed about whether to proceed with the opportunity at hand.
That’s why we were so excited to hear the recent announcement by Google that it would be making it easier to find scientific datasets.
The search giant is launching a new service, called Dataset Search, which will help scientists and others find the data required for their work.
Describing the new service, Google said: “Similar to how Google Scholar works, Dataset Search lets you find datasets wherever they’re hosted, whether it’s a publisher’s site, a digital library, or an author’s personal web page.”
The key lies in new guidelines produced by Google for dataset providers to describe their work in a way that allows Google and other search engines to better understand the content of their pages, including who created it, when it was published and how the data was collected.
It is encouraging all dataset providers, of whatever size, to adopt this common standard so all datasets are part of a “robust ecosystem”.
If Google can persuade providers to adopt this system then the impact it will have on the scientific community will be huge. We talk about the value of ‘big data’ all the time but for many of us it is still just a concept at this stage, so in that respect Google Dataset Search could be a real gamechanger.
We eagerly wait to see how this system develops and look forward to using it ourselves.