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Mapping existing open data research


There has been an explosion of research on open data over the last five years. Google Scholar records more than 34,000 papers mentioning “open data” since 2009, and over 2,200 explicitly focussed on “Open Government Data”. Through the Open Data Research Network we’ve been maintaining a selective bibliography of reports and research papers since 2012, focussing on social research from across the world. The bibliography has been built up by community suggestions, and maintained through the open source bibliography platform Zotero, with updates regularly shared in our monthly newsletter.



Earlier this year, with support from the Open Data Institute and the Partnership for Open Data, we had the opportunity to start digging deeper into the bibliography and to start tagging and curating the contents in more detail. The result is a prototype bibliography browser at http://bibliography.opendataresearch.org which covers a hand-picked selection of 120 papers and articles, and offers the ability to browse via research methods, research focus and geography (amongst other facets). Wherever possible we’ve included links to open access copies of the papers, and we’ve also made use of Zotero’s notes feature to pull out extracts from many of the papers, offering a route into some of the key insights without having to search through the full articles.



Although our sample is not representative of all the open data literature out there, it does point us towards a number of trends in research. For example, around 65% of the articles have an emphasis on the implementation of open data initiatives, whilst just 10% explicitly address impacts. Methodologically, interviews and surveys are popular approaches, whilst few researchers are yet adopting experimental methods. And whilst early publications focussed primarily on national government open government data initiatives, there has increasingly been a focus on local government and municipal activities in recent research.



The browser also offers a map view, showing the geographic spread of the literature we’ve identified, and offering access to studies on open data across the developing world. Our hope is that by providing easier access to studies, assessments and evaluations of open data activities across the world this bibliography is a tool not only for researchers, but also for policy makers and practitioners looking to dig into existing arguments and evidence about how to put open data into practice.

An ongoing, open project

You can add to the bibliography, and help improve the tagging and categorisation, by joining the Open Data Research group on Zotero.


This researcher handbook describes how to use the Zotero software to categorise articles, and links to the tagging taxonomy developed for the project. This uses simple machine tags, each with a prefix and value from a controlled list, to add extra meta-data to each article in Zotero. For example, adding a ‘method:experiment’ tag to indicate that a paper presents the results from a study with an experimental design.


The interface and tools that turn output from the Zotero API into data for display are also available on GitHub.

Please contact questions-odr@webfoundation.org with any enquiries and feedback. This project was carried out by The World Wide Web Foundation, with support from the Open Data Institute and the Partnership for Open Data (now part of the Open Data for Development network).The literature review and analysis was carried out by Emmy Chirchir, with input from Tim Davies and Tom Heath. The bibliography interface was developed by Tim Davies.