Ag Secretary Thomas Vilsack's column for this week:
Here in the United States, we enjoy incredible benefits from scientific research – including an amazing amount of useful data.
Data is a very powerful tool, and an important asset for innovation. President Obama made clear on his first day in office that the U.S. is committed to openness in government, and that includes expanded access to scientific data.
We have a history of achieving great things by providing open access to data. For example, the release of weather data has fueled production of new tools that return more than $4 billion every year to the U.S. economy. The release of Global Positioning System technology has led to an industry that returns an estimated $90 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
Data is equally important when it comes to agricultural research. Today, taxpayer-funded agricultural research is already a great value – returning $20 in economic benefits for every dollar invested.
By opening up data generated within the government, we can get even more value for the taxpayer dollar. We can enable outside partners to build on our work, and make new advancements that help farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
We’re taking an important step this month to open access to data. On April 29 and 30 here in Washington, the G-8 group of nations and the World Bank will bring agricultural leaders from around the world together at the first-ever “G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture.”
This two-day event will bring government representatives together with public and private sector partners to explore new opportunities to share data.
We’ll offer new ways to share U.S. agricultural information that we hope will stand as a benefit to our research partners. Meanwhile, we will explore additional opportunities for the U.S. to work with other nations to strengthen our shared goals in agricultural research.
With our partners around the world, we hope to generate new tools to confront modern challenges in agriculture – while helping to build capacity in the developing world. By working together, and by opening access to data, we can achieve even more for agriculture and rural areas across the globe.