People are talking a lot about open data. The definition of it is "data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike."
The open data movement is important because it allows scientists and researchers to share data for free, which creates opportunities for advances in many fields.
Open data and lidar
A recent New York Times article illustrates one example of this. Dr. Takeshi Inomata was able to use open lidar data to make new discoveries about the Mayan civilization.
Lidar (light detection and ranging) "is a remote sensing instrument consisting of a laser transmitter and an optical receiver, which is generally a telescope, along with associated detection and signal processing equipment."
Common applications for lidar include "the profiling of water depths (known as bathymetry), terrestrial elevation/terrain modelling, canopy height measurement of crops (for crop yield management) and of forests, and the 3D structure retrieval of urban areas (known as 3D city modelling)."
Archaeologists have been excited about lidar because it can reveal ancient buried structures without having to dig. Sometimes what they find can be massive. That's why lidar has been shaking up the field of archaeology ever since researchers started using it for that purpose.
One problem addressed in the NYT article, however, is that lidar mapping can be expensive, which is why open data that's already out there has hugely benefited researchers like Dr. Inomata.
More about open data
Open data isn't just about lidar, though. It can be any kind of data from any field.
What other researchers are using open data? To explore this topic further, see this example search for the keywords open data in the library's OneSearch tool.