Davies, Timothy G. and Frank, Mark
‘There’s no such thing as raw data’. Exploring the sociotechnical life of a government dataset.
In, Web Science 2013, Paris, FR,
02 - 04 May 2013.
Under the UK government’s open government data (OGD) initiative, departments have been encouraged to make nonpersonal government held datasets available online under open licenses and in standard formats, enabling the re-use of data to support transparency and accountability, improved public services and innovation and economic growth. This policy covers a wide range of government datasets, from core reference data and regularly collected performance indicators, to one-off research commissioned to support policy making. In arguments for open data, government datasets are commonly treated as if they are pre-existing artifacts waiting to be transferred from their current locations locked away on government hard drives, to public availability on websites and data-portals. However, in practice, many datasets are constructed in the process of being opened: whether as combinations of source material, or as derivative extracts of internal data systems.
In this short paper we present a brief case study of one instance of open data release, focusing on a dataset related to the ‘Digital Landscape Research’ published in 2012 alongside a new Government Digital Strategy. We explore different factors influencing how the data came to be published, and question whether a simple call for ‘raw data’ best serves the cause of promoting data re-use.
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