ODI releases new research on registers: making lists we can trust

Thu May 3, 2018

ODI Data Infrastructure Programme Lead, Leigh Dodds announces a new report exploring the definitions of a register, how to build trust through transparent stewardship and models of collaboration, written in partnership with OpenHealthcare and Democracy Club

ODI Data Infrastructure Programme Lead, Leigh Dodds announces a new report exploring the definitions of a register, how to build trust through transparent stewardship and models of collaboration, written in partnership with OpenHealthcare and Democracy Club

By Leigh Dodds

As part of the ODI’s innovation programme, we have recently been working with OpenHealthcare and Democracy Club to research and explore registers, with the goal of identifying best practices particularly around collaborative registers.

Registers are datasets that act as core reference data, providing lists of things like schools, companies, job centres and countries. Like open standards for data, they are a key part of our data infrastructure. Registers help to improve the quality of data by increasing consistency, but also play an important role in helping to link together datasets. Our data infrastructure is stronger if it is better connected.

Government Digital Services are working to publish registers that are useful for the UK government and other data users, like the TiscReport. But there are other organisations creating registers or maintaining reference data that share similar qualities.

Over the course of this short project, we have explored these different approaches to maintaining registers to help us to better understand their qualities and approaches to publishing them that can build trust with data users.

We originally set out to build on these definitions to describe “collaborative registers” and extended existing work to identify some new best practices. But along the way we realised that all registers are collaborative in some form. There is rarely one person responsible for deciding what goes into a register – it is usually a decision made by a group.

These collaborative processes are very rarely transparent, so our recommendations have instead focused on guiding custodians of registers towards ways that they can increase transparency around how registers are maintained.

We’ve now published the final report, written by David Miller and Sym Roe. The report explores the definitions of a register, how to build trust through transparent stewardship and models of collaboration.

If you have feedback on the report, please leave a comment or get in touch.