Building best practices for sharing public sector data

ODI Associate Leigh Dodds looks at how the Share-PSI 2.0 project is collecting and sharing best practices around the publication of public sector information, a useful resource for anyone leading or contributing to an open data initiative

At the ODI we’re big fans of capturing best practices and simple design patterns to help guide people towards the most effective ways to publish data.

By breaking down complex technical and organisational challenges into smaller steps, we can identify common problems across sectors and begin cataloguing common solutions. This is the common thread that ties together our research and technical projects and it’s this experience that we bring to our advisory projects.

We’ve been contributing to the Share-PSI project, which has been documenting a range of best practices that relate to publishing public-sector data. Some of the best practices address specific technical questions relating to the web of data, and these form part of the W3C’s ‘Data on the web best practices’ guidance.

But some of the best practices address higher-level issues, such as the importance of creating an open data strategy and a release plan to support it. Or the creation of change by supporting startups and enabling ecosystems. Each best practice sets out the underlying challenge, a recommended solution, and provides pointers to further reading.

Our guidance, white papers and reports help to add depth to these best practices by linking them to evidence of their successful adoption, both here in the UK and internationally. This helps to ground the best practices in concrete guidance that draws on the experience of the wider community.

The best practices also provide a useful way to explore the elements of existing open data programmes.

For example, it’s possible to see how a large public-sector initiative like #OpenDefra has been successful through its adoption of so many of these discrete best practices. These include the creation of a common open data strategy across its network, use of a release process that allowed for more rapid publication of data while managing risks, benchmarking practice using a maturity model, moving to an open by default licensing model, and its efforts to engage users and stimulate the wider ecosystem.

The best practices are a useful resource for anyone leading or contributing to an open data initiative. We’re looking forward to adding further to this body of evidence.

We’ve also begun to think about capturing common patterns that illustrate how open and shared data can be successfully used to deliver specific types of government policies. We are looking for feedback on this draft catalogue of strategic government interventions – you can either add comments in the document or email [email protected].)

If you have ideas or experience in open data that you'd like to share, pitch us a blog or tweet us at @ODIHQ.