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Embracing open data for social justice: A call to action

Leveraging data to forge pathways to equity and fairness

Today we celebrate the World Day of Social Justice, which underscores the importance of fostering a society where equity and fairness are not just ideals but realities for us all. Initiated by the United Nations, this day serves as a collective call to action, aiming to spotlight issues of poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections.  

A recent article from Harvard highlights the indispensable role of open data in addressing public health inequities, pointing out the broader implications for social justice. The lack of equity in data availability, along with systemic biases in data collection and algorithm design, have significant repercussions on health outcomes, particularly for marginalised groups.  

Consequently, the article emphasises the critical need for transparency and accessibility in research data, particularly in public health and social justice contexts. This openness not only facilitates the replication of results by independent researchers but also ensures that data is readily available for reviewers. By sharing datasets publicly in social justice research, it opens possibilities for others to uncover patterns and relationships that may have been missed or unexplored due to time or resource constraints. Moreover, in certain scientific and medical areas, there is an existing culture that values the sharing of data, computer code, and metadata, underscoring the benefits of openness in advancing knowledge and discovery. 

The importance of open data in the context of social justice cannot be overstated. Having access to data allows for promoting social justice, as it enables us to explore new ideas, approaches, and outcomes in understanding and tackling issues. Without innovative ways of managing and interpreting data, spotting and addressing disparities becomes challenging, if not unattainable. 

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