Open Data Bonanza

There has been much talk recently of the potential use and impact of open data at LiSC including  our attendance at an open data master class and a visit from Tony Hirst, a leading UK open data advocate, at a joint LiSC and LNCD meeting. This short(ish!) post gives a brief overview of these two events.



Open Data Master Classes

With large amounts of open data now being published at both the local and national government level on sites such as and there is huge scope for developers to create innovative ‘mashups’ that provide useful services for citizens. In order to make these open data sets usable and interactive normally has the prerequisite of sufficient development skills, thereby significantly raising the barrier for individuals with no development skills to successfully leverage open data sets in meaningful fashion. To help address this, the Horizon Research Institute has developed a series of Open Data Master Classes delivered by lecturers from academia, government and business.

Andy Garbett and I attended the class at Nottingham University and thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and opportunity to network. The class was themed around integrating maps with open data with presentations from Ordnance Survey and the Royal Geographical Society. A few key messages on open data from the presentations were ‘Discoverability’ and ‘Sense Making’ – is the open data easy to find and catalogued appropriately? Is it actually useful data being published? There was also mention of ‘Fear of Misunderstanding’ as a barrier to publishing open data with the perspective being negative inferences being made to the source of the data. We only have to look at the divisive press when UK crime data was released.

Overall we found the class to be engaging with great speakers delivering a range of perspectives from the technical to the ethical. Andy and I made some rough collaborative notes during the class which you can view here. You can also download the master class handbook from here and if you are keen to participate you can catch the last master class at the University of Reading on July 21st.

In keeping with tradition and Nottingham’s sterling reputation for first class breweries, we stopped off for a few ales before heading home where I sampled the excellent Nottingham Rock Bitter1. Being of slight disposition, Andy could only manage a half pint in haste.

LiSC and LNCD Meeting

LiSC had a joint meeting with the new LNCD group with a wall to wall turn out including staff from Journalism and ICT interested in open data. We had guest speaker Tony Hirst from the OU telling us all about his open data interests which are primarily focussed on HE generated data with other interests in visualising social networks. Tony is passionate about moving open data and research out of academic/government silos for public engagement in wider culture and society. However he believes that the public needs a greater understanding of statistics in order to make an informed decision on representations and sense making of open data. Tony also spoke of the interesting term ‘Data Burdens’ which relate to single data lists produced by government to help prevent duplication and collection of open data sets. This is a good indicator that open data collection and publication is being taken seriously by the government and in turn helping drive transparency. We are relatively new to open data at LiSC and having Tony at the table for Q & A was very informative, thanks Tony!


1. Nottingham Brewery (2008) Rock Bitter, available from

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