Salovey unveils new open data policies

Under a series of new policies, Yale may soon be a friendlier place for tech-savvy students.

In an effort to create a more supportive environment for student application developers, the University is implementing a series of new policies on open data. The new policies — first articulated by University President Peter Salovey in a letter to the Yale College Council President Danny Avraham ’15 and YCC Communications Director Andrew Grass ’16 — were announced in a YCC email late Tuesday evening.

The new policies come more than a month after a campus-wide outcry over the University’s decision to shutdown Yale Bluebook Plus, a student-created course-shopping website. The University argued that the site, which allowed users to sort courses based on numerical ratings, violated Yale’s intellectual property rules.

Salovey’s letter was written in response to a January YCC report on open data, which provided several suggestions to the administration on how to reform its current technology policies. Salovey said he would immediately adopt two of the seven policy suggestions laid out in the YCC report.

“I want you to know my personal commitment to providing a supportive environment for student application developers,” Salovey said in his letter. “I agree, as you explain in your report, that we can accomplish this goal while protecting intellectual property.”

Avraham said the new policies will create a “more positive environment for innovation” at Yale and reflect the fact that both administrators and students have learned from the Yale Bluebook Plus controversy.

In his letter, Salovey announced the formation of a task force to advise him on changes to Yale’s policies regarding access to online information, with the stated goal of fostering student entrepreneurship. Salovey said he expects the group, called the Task Force on Data Access, to begin advising him by the end of this semester.

The task force will bring together students and faculty from various parts of the University. In addition to several senior faculty members and administrators, the group will also include two students nominated by the YCC through an application process, as well as representatives of the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate. Political science professor Greg Huber, who also chairs the provost’s Information Technology Services Advisory Committee, will serve as chair.

Referring to the YCC recommendation that the University better communicate with students about its data policy, Salovey said he would look to the newly formed committee as a source of ideas on how to engender communication between the administration and students.

In addition to the task force, Salovey said he will immediately implement the first two of the four major proposals aimed at increasing transparency outlined in the YCC’s January report.

The first is the selection of an administrator to serve as a liaison to students interested in developing applications.

“This person should be familiar with Yale’s Acceptable Use policy and should be able to answer developers’ questions or tell them whom to contact if they have additional questions,” the YCC report read. “This person should have easily accessible office hours, and preferably experience working with student developers.”

In his letter, Salovey said Len Peters, the University’s Chief Information Officer, will take on this role.

The second policy Salovey will implement is the creation of a website to serve as a resource for student developers. The YCC proposal said the site should clearly list Yale’s guidelines for data usage, in addition to providing answers to frequently asked questions on developing applications that use University data.

The report cited the University of California at Berkeley’s site for developers as an example of a successful website.

“The content of the new website will evolve as a result of the task force deliberations,” Salovey said in his letter.

Still, Salovey’s letter did not address several major components of the YCC report, including recommendations that the administration allow students to repackage and use Yale data provided they meet a series of conditions, refrain from blocking non-malware sites, create a procedure to address violations of the published data use policy and publish a list of data sets that can be used without restriction.

Yale Bluebook Plus was developed by brothers Harry Yu ’14 and Peter Xu ’14.

Comments