The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age

The Hague Declaration: what does society stand to gain? Insights, efficiency, economic potential

At LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries, one of our major projects this year has been the drafting of a new document, which we hope will be instrumental in changing intellectual property (IP) law and removing other barriers currently preventing widened and more equal access to data.

Copyright was never designed to regulate the sharing of facts, data and ideas

Now, after several months of intense work, we can unveil the result: The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age. Written by 25 global experts who came together in The Hague in December last year, our belief is that this Declaration will help shape ethical research practice, legislative reform and the development of open access policies and infrastructure.

The Declaration asserts that copyright was never designed to regulate the sharing of facts, data and ideas ‒ nor should it. The right to receive and impart information and ideas is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the modern application of IP law often limits this right, even when these most simple building blocks of knowledge are used.

Content mining

In addition to clarity around the scope of IP law, the Declaration calls for a skills gap and a lack of infrastructure to be addressed if computers are to be better employed to extract and recombine data in order to identify patterns and trends. This process, known as Content Mining, is widely recognised as the only way to deal effectively with Big Data. 

Giving researchers, businesses and the general public the ability to effectively content mine is critical. It would represent a new approach to knowledge discovery at a time when society is facing a literal data deluge. Every two years, the digital universe, or the data we create and copy annually, doubles in size and it is expected to reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020

Inside this mountain of data are potentially countless benefits for society. Improved treatments for diseases, answers to global issues such as climate change and billions in government savings through increased efficiency are just some of the possible benefits which could be uncovered, if only we had the ability to analyse Big Data more effectively and equally.

The role of libraries

We believe that libraries in particular have an important role to play in promoting the Declaration and its principles. As institutions, they are at the centre of the data deluge: investing heavily in preserving born-digital content, digitising cultural heritage and in facilitating data sharing. 

Libraries know that enabling content mining will have several benefits, such as maximising the return on investment of public money and allowing researchers to fully realise the value of the content held by libraries. This will, in turn, ensure a more rigorous approach to research, including more through reviews of the literature. 

For all of these reasons we encourage libraries to sign the Declaration by visiting the website, and to work towards its principles. We also call on libraries to provide support to their researchers by giving training on content mining literacy, including legal advice.

In so doing, libraries will officially recognise the huge potential for knowledge discovery and will help bring to light the steps which need to be taken to ensure that everyone can benefit from this potential.

About the Hague Declaration

The Hague Declaration aims to foster agreement about how to best enable access to facts, data and ideas for knowledge discovery in the Digital Age. By removing barriers to accessing and analysing the wealth of data produced by society, we can find answers to great challenges such as climate change, depleting natural resources and globalisation.

The Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) is an original signatory of The Hague Declaration.

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