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Why Access to Data Matters and What We Can Do to Improve Access and Reusability
  • Denise Hills,
  • Stephen Diggs
Denise Hills
Geological Survey of Alabama,University of Alabama

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Stephen Diggs
University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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The Flint, Michigan, water crisis began in 2014 after officials switched the water supply to the Flint River, which was highly corrosive to the city’s pipes. Years later, the situation on the ground is still dire. Pipes are being replaced, but your average Flint citizen has no idea where the replacement is done. Citizens have such a history of tap water problems (pre-2014 and COVID) that they just continue to go and get (or buy) bottled water… for everything. Regaining trust in the viability/potability of their tap water is at odds with a local administration that doesn’t want to spend any more money and can’t wait for the situation to resolve itself. The Flint water crisis highlights the need for accessible and (re)usable data by all stakeholders. For example, if the officials who had originally switched the water supply had access to data in a way that was usable to them that showed how switching the water source without changing treatment would impact the infrastructure and water quality, they may have taken steps to prevent the crisis in the first place. Flint citizens should have access to data that shows water quality information and the status of infrastructure updates, in a way that is useful to them. Access to usable data is not just a nice thing to have; it can be a matter of life and death. We will outline the basic rights and responsibilities of researchers, data professionals, institutions, and others with regards to improving data access and reusability. For example, stakeholders and community members should have access to data that impacts their communities, and resources (such as access to researchers) to understand that data in a way that is useful for their situation.