A modern capability (draft)


Increase UK capacity for data mashing via higher education

The Taskforce was struck that much of the innovation in the vibrant UK data mashing scene comes from people associated with the higher education sector, either recent or current students or academics.  In fact innovation in public sector data mashing has largely come from individuals and the third sector rather than from the major IT companies that supply the government.

Many of the people doing data mashing have a background in the sciences and specialist research into data mashing should be increased.  The Taskforce also sees great potential in broadening the capability to mashup data out into the social sciences and beyond.  The ‘technical’ skills needed to manipulate and present data are diminishing thanks to services such as  Yahoo Pipes and the research information repositories arising in the UK.  In the same way that use of spreadsheets, databases and statistical packages became commonplace in academia the early 1990s, now might be the time for data mashing to follow a similar path.


The government should bring forward a plan to work with the higher education community on an increased UK capacity and capability for data mashing, including a focal point or virtual centre of excellence.  The Cabinet Office should bring forward a plan by Q3 2009.

RSS feed of comments 2 Responses to “Increase UK capacity for data mashing via higher education”

  1. Tony Hirst says:

    As a keen masher upperer (?!) from the HE sector, I have noticed in workshops that *attitude* and *awareness* play an important role in whether or not people “get the idea” behind mashups.

    The attitude that is required runs along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be good if I could do x? SO LET’S DO IT”

    Awareness is required along several dimensions:

    - familiarity with what other people have done (e.g. the IDEA behind, a and EXAMPLE of crime maps); this in part lays out the landscape of what we believe to be possible;
    - familiarity with tools and data formats; for example, I “just know” that if you make something available via RSS or JSON I’ll be able to filter it, remix, geocode it, etc etc using tools such as Yahoo Pipes. I KNOW if I have georss, Google maps will plot it on a map for me without me having to do anything else. If you make nice clean HTML datatables, I can screen scrape them into Googel spreasheets (and probably Excel?) I KNOW how to use View Source on a web page; and I know enough about regular expressions and xpath to know that there’s probably a way of getting whatever bit of data I want out of whatever web page I come across.

    And then we go back to attitude – if I know what tools are available, then I have to believe I can probably find a way of getting whatever data I want and displaying howsoever I want. Or at least I;d be able to point to examples of other related mashups and tell someone who can “I want something like that, but using that..”

  2. Sebastian Crump says:

    Please incorporate accessibility and usability into this HE plan. The former is very rarely considered, despite the legal obligations and the latter is usually the reserve of specialist qualifications.

    If there was a central expert team (as outlined in my comments on IT professional skills section) this could play a key role in encouraging HE sector by being a conduit for real data, ideas, work experience and the mutual benefits that this would afford.