Modernise data publishing and reuse (draft)

 

Embedding best practice

It is common for UK legislation to contain within it a statutory duty to publish defined items of information. These references vary widely from instructions to publish in specific journals such as the London Gazette through to simple instructions that something must be produced.  Publishing technology has overtaken these instructions in legislation.  Just as the phrase ‘in writing’ has been overtaken.  There is an opportunity to modernise the way information is published which would both be more cost-effective and allow the information to be more easily used across multiple channels, thereby increasing the likelihood of it reaching relevant audiences.

The Taskforce has been pleased to see OPSI put the London Gazette online with sophisticated data feeds making information published there accessible to a far wider audience than ever before.  We understand that this work is a world leading demonstration of publishing for the semantic web by a government.  We have also looked at the way in which government publicises its job vacancies as an example of an area which could benefit from a smart application of new technology.  We believe that OPSI, working with COI is well placed to issue guidance on best practice for the evolving menu of choices that public bodies can use for publishing public information.

Where there is a statutory requirement to publish ‘notices’ or other information we consider that it would always have been Parliament’s intent to ensure that the information reached all the relevant people.  So, in addition, if necessary, to publishing in the form specified by statute, public bodies should publish the same information on the internet in a manner specified by The National Archives (OPSI) so that it is searchable, scrapable, and provides a structured feed.  Many bodies may find it cost-effective to use the London Gazette service, which is free to government.

Recommendation

OPSI, part of the National Archives, and COI should work on updated guidance on publishing information, including requirements for publication in legislation.  Guidance should help information producers publish in a form that is cost-effective, reaches the largest audience and can easily be re-used.

Public bodies are often required to publish notices and other information in newspapers, by physical notices or by other means.  The same information should now also be published directly to the internet.  This will increase the opportunity for those people and businesses affected to see the information, either directly (for example, by search) or by others ‘mashing’ the information in the ways promoted elsewhere in this report.  In doing so, public bodies should follow the OPSI guidance and many may find it cost-effective to use the London Gazette service rather than develop their own systems.



RSS feed of comments 4 Responses to “Embedding best practice”

  1. Jeni Tennison says:

    ED: 2nd paragraph, “informaiton” should be “information”. Don’t you have spelling checkers? ;)

    MODERATOR NOTE – thanks, now corrected.

  2. POIT Moderator says:

    Thanks, Jeni. The report was drafted using a wiki tool that did not have a spellchecker :-( We found that this was a problem when too far in to easily move to another platform. This now forms part of our ‘lessons learnt’!

  3. Is there government sites such as grants.gov where you can find and apply for all government grants? Also, http://www.usajobs.gov? If not central sites should be created which gather job and grant information from all over central and local government so that jobs/grants can be easily found e.g. on a map, or based on certain criteria.

  4. Barry Tennison says:

    I’m sure it’s not widely and deeply enough appreciated that “publishing electronically” is a very different matter from “publishing (in print)”, and that the former contains very substantial opportunities, but ones that need understanding and effort to grasp. For example, putting on the web a pdf of a printed page, table or document falls lamentably short of the potential (as for example in a response comment on “Trading Funds” referring to http://tinyurl.com/bb9jb7). As another example, it would be ludicrous to insist that the electronically published versions of Acts of Parliament and Statutory Orders should FUNDAMENTALLY reflect the archaic traditional matters of pagination and line numbers, rather than the semantic groupings of section and subsection; and similarly for amendments and consolidation – this is not by any means a minor matter, as http://is.gd/igeJ shows. Education and standards are needed to ensure the realisation of the potential of clarification of semantic content (some would say: semantic markup). So I support giving power to a suitable body to educate and enforce standards: is the National Archives (OPSI) currently suitably expert ;) ? If not, it or another body should become so.