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Berners-Lee: Web Science future is bright

WebNews
, 26 May 2010News

Government-sponsored boffins-in-chief, Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, issued a statement yesterday expressing their disappointment over the fact that they might not be so sponsored any more, now that the Tories and their Limp-Dem sponsors are wielding the axe in the direction of anything that moves.

Their £30 million Institute of Web Science faces the unkindest cut but the politically-astute pair say they "understand that immediate decisions had to be made" in the face of a big empty pot where once there was a big pot with a few coppers rattling around in the bottom.

Stoically, the pair say, "The future remains bright" for the project, pointing at various statements the ConDems made before and since snatching the keys to Number 10.

The sacked Labour Government announced on 22 March that it would contribute £30 million towards an Institute of Web Science, which would be hosted by Southampton University and the Oxford Internet Institute. The ConDems have now withdrawn that money.

Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Shadbolt, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Southampton, say they expect the data.gov.uk portal to become increasingly important, noting that a "right to data" was upheld in the Queen's speech yesterday.

"The Institute for Web Science remains a proposal still under development," the pair wrote. "Naturally, many people have been asking what this means for Web Science and we wanted to provide an assurance that the future remains bright.

"It is clear from the new Government's Big Society declaration, the Coalition Partnership and speeches such as David Cameron's to TED before the election that open government data is a high priority. Our understanding is that the data.gov.uk portal will in fact grow significantly in the months to come.

"The process of opening up UK Government data is really in its early stages, and while much has been accomplished there is very much more yet to be done. This work, while essential for the UK's good governance, prosperity and competitiveness as a place to do business, is part of a wider global movement.

"The UK over the last 12 months has played a leading role in this movement. Recently we have seen a re-launch of the USA's portal, data.gov, with a large, easily-accessed trove of linked open data from US government, and many applications.

"There is more being added to data.gov.uk all the time, whether it is the NaPTAN data, a GB national system for uniquely identifying all the points of access to public transport, or the eagerly anticipated COINS database detailing Treasury spending.

"As we enter a phase of cutting back on many things, the linked open data movement is a crucial tool, for government, public and industry to get the most value from the important resources being opened up. During times of austerity, transparency is essential, and open data will play a crucial role."

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