Open Data Resource Pack

This Open Data Resource Pack is intended to help public authorities throughout Scotland develop and implement their own plans for open data.

Annex B: Case Studies

The following is a collection of case studies which demonstrate the value that open data is bringing to individuals, companies and public authorities in Scotland.

1. Clackmannanshire Council: Open Data Scotland and Code for Europe

2. Crichton Institute: Regional Observatory

3. The City of Edinburgh Council: ARC-E App

4. The City of Edinburgh Council: EdinburghApps

5. The City of Edinburgh Council: Run the City App

6. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland - SENESCHAL

7. Registers of Scotland: Cadastral data for the INSPIRE directive

8. Scotland's Environmental Web: Ecohack

9. Scottish Government: Dialogue App

If you have a case study you would like to share or you would like to be put in touch with the case study subjects, then get in touch -,

1. Clackmannanshire Council: Open Data Scotland and Code for Europe

Many of the problems which Open Data is typically used to solve don't exist in a small Council. Mass transportation isn't an issue with only 3 bus routes. There isn't a developer community taking part in hack events and generating innovative applications. Why then should a small Council pursue Open Data?

Open Data affords opportunities to be more efficient, whether through being nimble by adopting freely available Civic Apps to improve service delivery or by reducing the time spent responding to information requests from the public or partners. In time, it is likely that we will be required by statute to share more data anyway.

Location based services will become increasingly important. In the near future citizens will expect to be able to use their personal device and using the tools of their choice, see and interact with services which are nearby. In order for Council services to be part of this world, data about those services must be published openly.


'Open Data Scotland' is a programme which has involved over the last year, four of Scotland's local authorities - Edinburgh, Aberdeen, East Lothian and Clackmannanshire. Aberdeen and Edinburgh City Councils have been at the leading edge of nascent open data work in Scotland and can be seen as 'mature' players, willing to share their knowledge and expertise with others. East Lothian and Clackmannanshire came to the programme with little or no experience of open data, but with an ambitious attitude and a willingness to experiment and embrace innovation.

examples of information sharing

Each local authority was appointed a 'Code Fellow in Residence' (a technologist) who has worked intensively with the local authority staff over 12 months to open up data sets, publish these on a portal so they can be re-used and created new digital public services - apps and web content to enhance both citizens and visitors experiences of the local authority. A 'Designer in Residence' also worked with the technologists and local authority staff across the four authorities.

We have been part of the wider 'Code for Europe' programme which has involved designers and technologists across Europe working with civic authorities to increase the use of open data sets to enhance civic transparency and improve decision making.

Clackmannanshire Council is Scotland's smallest mainland local authority and their learning from the programme below demonstrates that this is not beyond the reach of any government agency or public body in Scotland, with the right culture and access to skills.


With little prior knowledge of Open Data, our initial ambition for this project was to develop a mobile app which would provide personalised access to childcare resources as part of the early intervention strand in our 'Making Clackmannanshire Better' change programme.

As the project evolved we focussed on three main areas: Knowledge Transfer, Developing a Portal and our Childcare Application.

Knowledge transfer provided Council officers with information about standards and systems used in Open Data, the ecosystem of agencies involved in Open Data and the sources of existing Open Data applications which were available for re-use.


We successfully built a CKAN Open Data portal and developed an app called Clacks Kids which is a location based service directory. Spin-off activities have lead us to develop an open GIS mapping portal which is likely to inform our future GIS Strategy and a reporting platform based on the Open311 standard.

ClacksKids App page

CKAN App page

Lessons learned

  • The biggest lesson is that even a very small Council can engage with Open Data. The key components are having access to people with the right skills and attitudes, easy access to servers and software with which to tinker, and permission to experiment.
  • Developing an Open Data infrastructure is important if the project is to be sustainable. While the "app" may be the most high impact product, without the infrastructure there will be no data to use in the app. Apps are also transient, they will be replaced by other apps in future.
  • Follow your nose! We have revamped our GIS infrastructure opening up the opportunity of significant future cost savings as a direct consequence of our need to provide mapping tools for this project.
  • Civic Apps are not as easily transferrable from one Council to another as you might expect.
  • In a shrinking Council, persuading others to prioritise your project can be difficult especially when there is nothing concrete to demonstrate. You need to have something to show people. Once we had a working app, we then found services coming on board as they could see how it could be used.

2. Crichton Institute: Regional Observatory

In promoting this project both within and beyond the region, both local and global issues have collided. It is clear that new technology has created an accelerating hunger for information and we have observed with interest the parallel dialogue around Open Government and the 'Smart City' agenda. It seems to us that there is something of gap in strategic thinking and policy and we have been asking the question: '…if there is such a thing as the Smart City, what would the Smart Countryside look like…?'. So there is a dialogue that needs to take place about rural-specific opportunities in the open sharing of data and service improvement and provision which we feel should follow.

The above issue is compounded by the overall capacity constraints which rural agencies face. While an obvious plea would be for more resources for rural areas in this field, there are perhaps more immediate advances that can be made by better sharing of experience and existing resources currently being directed to urban areas/solutions.

Raising this issue has gained us some exposure. We have, in addition, been cited as an example of regional-level data innovation in the recently published SG Open Data Strategy. We have also been encouraged by the fact that others, including those much better resourced than us, have had to grapple with the same issues and that we are seeing emerge a community of like-minded people who are prepared to provide advice and support.


The objective of the regional observatory ( RO) is to provide an information and knowledge portal that acts as a one-stop open access service for open data, information and intelligence on a wide range of social, economic and environmental factors across Dumfries and Galloway and the South of Scotland.

Rural areas have in general been poorly resourced in terms of data gathering, access and usage and D&G and the South of Scotland are no exception. In many cases, public and 3rd sector agencies have had to resource external consultancy to assist with even the most basic of regional data gathering and interpretation (the exception being the local NHS Board which has a well- resourced public health intelligence unit). Effective data sharing has, as a consequence, been somewhat the exception.

With a lack of capacity and no consistent track record of high level collaboration, the benefits to be derived from sound data management and data sharing have not been fully understood or exploited. While individual agencies are striving to take advantage of new information and communications technologies, the absence of effective data management is inhibiting the genuine desire to move to a more 'open government/open data' culture. Change in recent developments in Community Planning, a move towards better understanding the needs of service users and service integration (within and between agencies) is however supporting the drive towards a culture of open government/open data in the region.


The setting up of the RO was approached as much as an organisational development and trust-building issue as simply an exercise in data management/sharing. Hence the RO has been developed in close collaboration with the Dumfries and Galloway's Community Planning Partnership. The objective from the outset has been to ensure buy-in to the concepts of Open Government, collaboration, service improvement and data sharing across institutions, communities and businesses across the region.

The first step was to engage in discussions with the local Community Planning Partnership to ensure that there was a view that such a thing as a data observatory was needed, but also that there was high level cross-agency support for its development. The proposal was greeted with enthusiasm and two tranches of support funding for the early development stages of the Observatory.

With support secured, an initial Technical Group was established which included representatives from Dumfries and Galloway Council ( DGC), NHS Dumfries and Galloway ( NHSDG), Scottish Centre for Enabling Technologies ( SCET) and the Crichton Institute ( CI).

This group worked together to agree on the vision, look and feel of the online portal, the process of populating it, maintaining it and promoting it. As part of this some desk research was done to look into what other observatories and open data portals offer. Some of these were approached directly to inform us whether we were heading in the right direction. Armed with this background, a Project Initiation Document was agreed and specialist part-time consultancy engaged to convert the vision into reality.

One issue we struggled with was '…when do we go public…?' We were confident with the basic functionality/feel of the portal, but less assured on content issues. We have made life difficult with the notion that our customers would not just be the usual professional data-users. Our vision also included, for example, local P6 pupils using the portal for a project on "Jobs in our Region", complete with map-building and visualisation tools.

We decided to opt for a 'soft launch' of the RO website in June 2014 and we plan to go fully public in early summer now that we have circa 130 reports/data sets etc uploaded. The Technical Group has now become a Data Suppliers Group. With the key technical issues addressed and the portal functioning it was felt that the 'harvesting' of data and documents should now widen to include others.


Phase 1 of the project is complete. We have a well- functioning and attractive portal. It is still fairly one-dimensional although we have now started to upload spatial data. We are now looking at how best to enhance the portal. Discussions at a Crichton Institute Partnership Board meeting and at the autumn workshop showed a great interest in RO providing access to a regional economic dashboard, providing instant, up-to-date access to key economic performance data for Dumfries and Galloway. Further wishes include access to interactive mapping and which is based on raw data.

Suppliers Group now also includes representation from Third Sector Dumfries & Galloway. Approaches have been made to Police Scotland and other local community organisations. These discussions have served a dual purpose. As well as serving to promote the RO and secure further data access, they have opened up dialogue about the promotion of data sharing, better understanding, and more effective service delivery. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. People like our vision and the objective, non-partisan approach. This was supported through a workshop in the autumn of 2014, which was also attended by Scottish Government. It also provided us with confirmation that we are moving in the right direction, that we have the same issues as other open data projects, but also provided us with a list of priorities on what to do next.

Lessons learned

Over the last 18 months, in addition to achieving our technical goals, we have significantly improved the level of inter-agency dialogue around the issue of Open/Shared Data and and its benefits. In what has been co-incidental good-timing, we set out on the journey at the same time as the Scottish Government was addressing the whole Open Government/Open Data agenda and it has been both helpful and re-assuring to share in the SG networks as we drove the project forward.

We have also come to see our limitations, which are beginning to affect the further development of the project:

Manpower and Commitment:

CI has been able to give direction and drive to the project with (very limited) financial support from the Community Planning Partnership and the allocation of 2 part-time posts. Since we do not have any authority over our partners and stakeholders, we have had to rely on goodwill and individual commitment to the project. This has worked well but has its limitations and has impacted on pace of delivery. To address this we are looking to now support individual data-related projects to demonstrate more widely the practical benefits that flow from shared/added-value use of regional and national data. It is a process of building enthusiasm! It takes time to bring people together, to enthuse them and to get them to see and understand the benefits of open data; as part of this increased/improved reach of coverage across the South of Scotland to assist regional awareness and intelligence;

The maintenance and development of the portal requires a dedicated person to ensure continued expansion of high quality, user-friendly data and reports available. CI is providing this on a temporary basis but our support is 'generalist' and we have had to buy-in technical support. We also have no direct data analyst support and have sought to secure this through partner engagement.

Technical expertise

During phase 1 we bought in technical expertise through one of our academic partners. However, being more familiar with the technical requirements to access open data and in turn to visualise it etc. we have become aware that other technical skills are needed.

Technical expertise in software development is now a real need and here we require someone who can also interact well with non-technical users to translate needs ideas into reality. (Having the job and person specification of the Nesta Code Fellow would be useful)


Public bodies are facing cuts and staff reductions, hence money for development of open data platforms is difficult to obtain.

Even when working with open source applications there are costs attached to the development, therefore it is vital to show efficiencies and other benefits, i.e. improved location based services, early on in the project

A sustainable model for on-going delivery of RO through dialogue with the strategic partners is vital and this will be a priority over the next 12 months. The recent publication of the Scottish Government's Open Data Strategy will assist in making the case for continuing support.

3. The City of Edinburgh Council: ARC-E App

The app enables the service area (Health & Social Care) to open up data of services. Previously service information for addition recovery support groups in Edinburgh had only been available through leaflet and PDF formats. An API was created with this data and can be shared with the app and other applications.

The app has been built so that it is scalable and more features can be added. The framework of the app can also be redeveloped to suit other groups with similar needs.


ARC-E App was created by TM&R Ltd (Anne-Marie McMann and Ella Robbins) and developed by David Morrison as part of the EdinburghApps 2014 civic challenge programme.

The application, the Addiction Recovery Companion - Edinburgh app ( ARC-E app), is aimed to support those in the process of recovery from an addiction. The app allows users to document and reflect on their progress, becoming a constant companion and supporting them as they help themselves. It will make it possible for people who already have some support from Council services to use their mobile device to help them in their recovery from addiction.


The approach taken to develop the app was an agile, co-creative approach. Through working this way the team have been able to develop the app with the Council service area and services users to ensure that the deliverables are being met and a worthwhile product is created.

Design & Build

The approach of the design was to a put the needs, wants and limitations of the users at the heart of the design process. From the start, the project ran focus groups with potential users of the app to inform on how to move forward. First the team made sure that the objectives reflected problems that impact recovering addicts and then tested and iterated on potential solutions using low-cost prototypes before implementing them.

To build the product, a version of the Scrum agile development approach was adopted and adapted to fit the small and distributed team. This approach recognises that requirements often change during a project and the team has to be in a position where it can quickly adapt to these changes.

The project was divided into objective themes. Each objective theme contained a collection of user stories and at the end of every iteration the team produced a build of the app. This build was tested against the user stories for the iteration and used as an artefact for user testing. This allowed the Council to assess the current build for milestone acceptance and potential users to test and feedback on its value to them. The outcomes of testing influenced the planning of future iterations e.g. new user stories maybe added to the backlog or remove ones that have been shown to be invalid. This ensures that a meaningful product is being built at every stage.


ARC-E App was developed in order to:

  • improve access to appropriate local support services and information about the service.
  • make it straightforward for users to reach out for immediate support in times of crisis.
  • help users keep track their appointments and commitments, related to managing their recovery.
  • keep users up-to-date on events organised by the council or by members of the recovery community that might be relevant to their recovery.
  • allow users to look back at daily messages to support motivation to stay on track.
  • allow users to access mindfulness activities, particular during a crisis/emergency.

The app is currently being tested and will launch in September 2015 therefore the actual user outcomes and benefits cannot be measured until after the app is released.

Lessons Learned

The main lessons learned have been around working co-creatively. The client (Health and Social Care) and the end user (people in recovery from addiction) have been involved at every step of the process. Working this way has ensured that milestones have been hit on time and on budget whilst creating and app that meets the user's needs and achieves the objectives set out by Health and Social Care.

4. The City of Edinburgh Council: Edinburgh Apps

This programme is completely transferrable to any other organisation and sector. We did not create something that was untried - civic challenge competitions take place all over the world, and are very successful. Supporting events, hack weekends, data days etc. are also happening widely, and are not expensive to do. All of these events add to learning and increases awareness of the power of open data. It is a new way of working, but it is already the way many companies work, and something the public sector needs to do to find efficient and cost effective solutions.

Our track record speaks for itself - our agile approach to development means we can build quality products quickly and we know they meet customer needs. Most of our products are shareable which means the public sector can use them right now.


Launched in 2013, EdinburghApps was the first event of its kind in the UK, a civic challenge programme that works with the Council and other partners, encouraging developers, designers, creatives and small businesses to take part, and offering winners business support and the potential opportunity to work with the Council to develop their concepts further. Participants choose from challenges set by the Council around a number of key themes.

At its core is a vision to change the city through encouraging innovation with technology, design and user-centric development. Edinburgh has exceptional design and tech communities and a large number of young companies in these areas whose fresh thinking mean that Edinburgh has great opportunities to produce original and cutting edge solutions to city challenges.

The programme of challenge events:

  • supports growth of and partnership with new IT, design and other related businesses and partners in the city
  • encourages a digital culture change internally, supporting skill development for council officers
  • delivers innovative and efficient solutions for the Council's customers, in line with the Council's priorities and the ICT and Digital Strategy objectives.

Edinburgh Apps was developed to support the Council's Open Data strategy. For each challenge, data sets are shared, increasing the Council's delivery of open data and opportunities for innovation EdinburghApps wants to change the city by providing creative, customer driven solutions to city challenges. It aims to work with everyone interested in making this change happen.


EdinburghApps began as an annual once a year competition with the Council providing challenges and teams taking part over 6/7 weeks to develop strong concepts or/and prototypes which are then judged in a final event. The winners then have the opportunity to work with the Council to develop their ideas, and deliver products.

EdinburghApps now runs a range of events to encourage solution finding working with key partners, Council officers and customers

  • Annual challenge competition
  • Subject hackathons
  • Service area mini events

All of these events aim to support partners in finding innovative solutions to business and city challenges. Data is a core requirement in all of this, and is published as open data whenever possible.

Winners of these events have the opportunity to take forward their proposal for development with the appropriate area.

The benefits of this approach are:

  • Delivery of new digital products which meet a clearly defined need
  • Delivery using an agile approach, and at a far reduced cost to working with larger companies
  • Customised solutions, co-created, which are built directly to meet requirements
  • Building longer term relationships with local IT & Digital companies
  • Opportunities to support the growth of the city's business economy

The competition event is now in its third year and has been very successful encouraging a wide range of entries and the delivery of a number of products. These include:

  • Tend - routing tool which optimises planning and deliveries for Health and Social Care's Equipment Store
  • Recycling Edinburgh - a location app for recycling facilities in the city
  • Run The City - an app aimed at visitors looking to explore the city using running routes, offering a commentary on places on interest
  • ARC-Edinburgh - a buddy app to support those in recovery programmes for addiction

In two cases the Council helped winners to start their business from scratch, and also supporting participants to find other business opportunities. We recently launched Edinburgh Up Close, working with technology developed by a winner from EdinburghApps 2013.

The event runs in three events - a kick off weekend, midway workshops and the judging final.


When EdinburghApps was first launched it was intended to bring about a number of benefits, including:

  • new thinking to solve city challenges
  • innovation in technology and design
  • the sharing of civic data
  • development of new businesses
  • social change for the city

The programme has achieved these outcomes, but it has also brought about much more:

  • innovative and cheaper solutions
  • improved sharing and publishing of open data
  • ongoing relationships with new businesses
  • change to ways of working
  • awareness raising for open data
  • new business thinking
  • benefits to customers

Lessons Learned

EdinburghApps' first year was a proof of concept - this is a good approach, it allows learning on format, process and outcomes. We have tweaked the main event and expanded to include a June event to build interest in the main competition. Longer term (funding permitting) having three a year is our aspiration, to continue to build relationships with the tech community and increase traction and knowledge sharing in the Council. We are working with other partners now as a logical progression in identifying 'city' challenges, not just service challenges. There are synergies for organisations both in terms of challenges and for product and data usage. We expand the sharing of data as well as the sharing of ideas.

  • Build support: it is important to have a suitable sponsor in your organisation (and some funding) to do this. Our first year proved it was possible - but we also could demonstrate it was being done elsewhere and this helped us find supporters. Align with relevant strategies in your organisation, this will also build support.
  • Changing business thinking: when we started this programme we didn't realise the impact of bringing business change into the Council. Inviting developers and designers to work with us brought fresh thinking and new ways of working. This has had an interesting internal ripple, and we now find service areas keen to see what can be achieved, not just with a product development, but for their service generally.
  • Data: this is the central component and takes time to find, cleanse and publish. This can be challenging and service areas may need help with this work. Ideally a data resource should be available to do this.
  • For the competition itself: we have discovered that a mix of skills works better for teams, and builds better prototypes, so we now advertise across a number of sectors. You need developers to support the whole event, provide mentoring and knowledge sharing, so build relationships with your local tech and design communities. Some teams have no idea how to deliver their idea - we are now offering a midway workshop to help them learn how to build a proposal, cost and plan their concept
  • Challenges: Whoever submits a challenge must now take part in the whole event, providing further information and advice for teams. This means that, whoever wins, the challenge owner is already engaged with them and it makes it easier to take the project forward.
  • Funding: funding has to be flexible. You run the competition, and then agree funding. Sometimes this may mean putting a bid into a particular call. Whilst it's very helpful to identify funding beforehand, it's not always possible. As it's a competition we meet procurement rules and this has made it easier to deliver projects.
  • Sponsors: a range of sponsors and types of sponsorship are required and this is time consuming to achieve. It is never too early to start working on this.
  • Communications: communication has to be regular and continue throughout the year, not just around events. This requires resource and should not be under-estimated. Engagement is essential to keep your audience interested and encourage them to come back each year.

Finally, and most importantly, look for any opportunity to work with others in this area. This is one approach but there many other methods for engaging and changing thinking, and developing open data. Build partnerships to make it easier to accomplish more. We work with individual developers and creatives as well as companies, and we do look for those who have the same goals for data and innovation and want to see change happen.

5. The City of Edinburgh Council: Run the City App

The Run the City App solves a challenge faced by running enthusiasts who are new to the city by providing routes. It increases users engagement with both the city by highlighting city sights and providing engaging an anecdotes.

The app has been built so it is scalable and with the intention that other cities and routes will be added.


Run the City is a guided tour for runners and winner of the 'wild card' challenge for EdinburghApps 2014. Runners will always get their run in, even when away on business, but running in a strange city is difficult when you don't know where to go. Run the City solves this challenge as the app, through audio messages, not only gives runners directions but also highlights their attention to the city sights and makes their run in Edinburgh more engaging with anecdotes about the areas they are running through.

It utilises the Council's open data as content for the app and will also create data we can make open.


The project was undertaken over two main stages the Build Phase, and the Beta Phase. The initial build phase allowed us to deliver a minimum value product which can be tested to ensure that we are on track to deliver our objectives before full build is complete. This also ensures we are building a valuable product that people want to use.

The team that are developing the app have been working co-creatively with the Council service area to ensure that the deliverables are being met.

Build Phase

The build phase developed the main components of the app (login, cities, routes, tracker, activity, settings, activity timer and location tracker pages.) In this phase, before building the user-interface of the app we created a route planning functionality, which allowed us to design and record routes to be uploaded into our app. The milestone for this phase will be the delivery of the MVP (Minimum Value Product)

Beta Phase

This phase involves both production of the audio for the tour and device testing and user testing. The test app will be shared with runners/walkers around the city and asking them to use it and report back any ideas or issues they have. We anticipated that user testing of that app will take about three to four weeks but this is the most difficult phase to estimate as the results of these tests may determine that extra work will be required to complete.


An engaging running app, which considers routes which would appear to walkers, has been created using Council open data. The app has been aligned to Edinburgh Outdoors and has created the additional benefit of creating data which can be shared.

The app is currently being tested and will launch in September 2015 therefore the actual user outcomes and benefits cannot be measured until after the app is released.

Lessons Learned

So far lessons learnt have been around troubleshooting issues with the technology. There have been issues with calibrating the app and therefore as anticipate the testing the beta phase is taking longer than expected.

6. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland - SENESCHAL: Semantic ENrichment Enabling Sustainability of arCHAeological Links

Adopting Linked Open Data can benefit the wider heritage community through improving standards and introducing efficiencies. The benefits of publishing controlled vocabularies are starting to be realised. Simply by adding a SENESCHAL RESTful service into their Collections Management System, the Archaeology Data Service, University of York were able to access the authoritative controlled vocabularies remotely. This not only eliminates errors that inevitably creep in through free text typing but improves the consistency of indexing records.


Controlled vocabularies are key to both the storage of information in the database and its discovery online. In particular, we use thesauri to help classify the types of monument, object and maritime craft associated with each site record. We encourage the use of thesauri standards amongst local Historic Environment Records ( HERs), who maintain databases about the historic environment for local authority areas across Scotland, and more widely amongst the profession.

For cultural heritage, demand for Linked Open Data came from the research community. They saw the absence of controlled vocabularies as limiting opportunities for combining data from different providers through semantic links.

Major controlled vocabularies should act as hubs for the Web of Data, but publication as free text strings limits opportunities for connecting to data published elsewhere. Although we publish our controlled vocabularies online as thesauri, they are not particularly visible. The thesaurus for architecture, implemented in 2005, limits the potential of the terminology as the terms lack the persistent Uniform Resource Identifiers ( URIs) that would allow our resources to act as hubs for the Web of Data. Adopting a Simple Knowledge Organisation System, or SKOS, using the Resource Description Framework ( RDF) provides a more flexible approach enabling the vocabulary owner to define a concept rather than the term. Each concept is expressed as a URI. The concept may then be expressed in any number of ways including alternate labels, dialect terms or in different languages.

The development of Linked Open Data for cultural heritage is part of good practice, helping to deliver Government policy towards transparency and Open Data. Scotland's Open Data Strategy encourages Public Data to be published in reusable, machine readable form under an open licence which enables free reuse, including commercial reuse to open standards following relevant recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium. Moreover, Public Data from different departments about the same subject will be published in the same, standard formats and with the same definitions. Defining the concepts used to index records about cultural heritage is a first step towards meeting that goal. It introduces the standards and machine-readable formats necessary for interoperability. However, before becoming operational, it requires acceptance of the standards, investment in research and development time beyond the day-to-day operations of many organisations.


The solution was to find partners who understood the Linked Open Data requirements and to secure funding to enable the research and publication of Linked Open Data. We were fortunate that colleagues at English Heritage already had an established relationship with the Hypermedia Research Unit at the University of South Wales and that there was a shared recognition of the need to publish our vocabularies as Linked Open Data.

The partnership approach between a university research department and public bodies enabled a successful application to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a one year Knowledge Exchange project. This made it significantly easier for vocabulary providers, such as RCAHMS, to make their vocabularies available as Linked Data and for users to index their data with uniquely identified (machine readable) controlled terminology that is semantically enriched and compatible with Linked Data.

The resultant SENESCHAL project (Semantic ENrichment Enabling Sustainability of arCHAeological Links) brought together vocabulary providers from English Heritage, RCAHMS and RCAHMW, together with the Archaeology Data Service University of York with the domain experts, Doug Tudhope as Principal Investigator and Ceri Binding as Research Fellow, at the University of South Wales.


Intended Outcome

Actual Outcome

Freely accessible and reusable persistent vocabulary resources as linked data, the techniques to achieve this being made freely available.

Achieved: established as the home for Cultural heritage reference vocabularies and concept schemes published for RCAHMS Monument Type, Archaeological Objects and Maritime Craft Type

Each concept has its own unique reference indicator.

Web Services to SKOS representations of the vocabularies and semantic enrichment services, along with web application components

Achieved: Downloads, Services and Widgets published. Users are able to download the vocabularies in various flavours of RDF (N-Triples, Turtle, JSON or XML). A series of REST URI calls have been developed for the vocabularies with results returned in a JSON structured string which permit AJAX callbacks for use in browser based applications.

Knowledge exchange tools to facilitate semantic enrichment (via URIs) within data entry. Development of downloads, Services and Widgets.

The project has also developed a suite of predefined visual user interface tools, or widgets.

Mechanism for feedback of supplementary terms to augment existing vocabularies

Not Achieved: candidate terms are still submitted through RCAHMS own thesaurus management system and data periodically uploaded to website

Raising the profile of Linked Open Data with Historic Environment data curators in Scotland

Achieved: through a workshop was held in Edinburgh at the end of the project for stakeholders and presentations on Linked Open Data to stakeholder groups.

Additional outcome:

Demonstrating application of approach to handle multi-lingual expressions of concepts: During the course of the project we were able to make use of Gaelic translations of the monument type vocabulary provided by Historic Scotland from a Bòrd na Gàidhlig funded project.

So a concept may now be expressed in English or Gaelic, with a preferred or alternate label.

Lessons learned

Publishing the terminologies as Linked Open Data is the first tentative step toward delivering cultural heritage data as 5 star data. Maintenance and update of the terminologies is not seamless and requires periodic data uploads, so the vocabularies may not be up-to-date instantaneously.

Exposing controlled vocabularies is inevitably organisation-driven and there is a need, where appropriate, to align vocabularies by theme to deliver further efficiencies in maintaining and developing resources. Through our membership of MEDIN we are exploring opportunities to develop more marine and maritime-related Linked Data vocabularies with colleagues in Belfast and Dublin.

The benefits of Linked Open Data have still to be fully realised within the business and more widely across the heritage community. However, making the terminology more openly accessible as Linked Data should encourage wider adoption of standard terminology, develop interoperability with other related resources, and encourage community feedback on possible improvements to the vocabularies. Opportunities will continue as part of the new organisation Historic Environment Scotland when RCAHMS and Historic Scotland come together in October 2016 to form the new lead body for Scotland's historic environment.

7. Registers of Scotland (RoS): Cadastral data for the INSPIRE directive

Scotland has made significant progress in publishing spatial data in a prescribed format driven by the EU INSPIRE directive. The local government sector is also currently developing a project to support a more collective approach to the management and publication of spatial information, providing access to all spatial data created by local government in a consistent form.

RoS is proud to be at the forefront of the provision of spatial data. We would recommend any approach that supports collective management and publication of spatial information. The challenges faced internally are far outweighed by benefits realised in the short and longer term.

The experience we have gained over the last seven years with INSPIRE has led us to increasingly identify considerable benefits of a coherent, trusted, and consistent set of information on land and property in Scotland. Enabling access to core land and property information in one place where it can be made available to all is increasingly important for Scotland as a whole.


European Directive 2007/2/EC, better known as 'INSPIRE,' was transposed into UK law in December 2009. The aim of the directive is to establish a spatial data infrastructure ( SDI) for Europe. In general terms, this means providing an IT infrastructure which allows access to harmonised spatial data (data collected to the same standards and requirements) via the internet. In theory, an SDI should improve the access and use of data at local, regional, national and international levels, improve data sharing between public authorities, and improve public access to spatial data.

INSPIRE instructs EU member states to make spatial data available in a consistent format which come within the scope of the directive, as well as providing network services (mostly internet access) and metadata to support the data. You can read an informal consolidated text of the Scottish INSPIRE regulations here.

The Scottish government is responsible for the management of INSPIRE in Scotland. The management is coordinated by the Spatial Information Board and work has been broken down into five main areas. The two areas of interest to RoS are land, property and addressing; and service delivery and technical implementation. All EU member states are required to submit a monitoring report with details of available datasets to the European Commission every May. You can read the UK's most recent monitoring report here.


Our first step was to establish a project and project team to handle the legal, commercial and technical aspects of INSPIRE.

During the lifetime of the project we consulted widely with other European and UK organisations, both within and outside our domain. Colleagues within the Scottish government and UK geographic community provided an excellent and knowledgeable resource. This enabled us to overcome a wide variety of challenges and allowed us to improve our own expertise in a number of crucial areas.

As well as the technical requirements, we had to consider the wider implications of INSPIRE on our business and staff. These included the effect on our commercial activity and the types of services we offered, our IT infrastructure, and any legal impact on our day-to-day activity. Each of these requirements was processed by a small multi-disciplinary team reporting back to the project board who led the overall INSPIRE strategy.

The nature of the legislation naturally broke the project into a number of phases, each of which required an increasing level of resource and budget.

  • Phase 1: metadata - in May 2011, we complied delivering GEMINI 2.1 metadata describing our land register data and the future web mapping service ( WMS).
  • Phase 2: discovery and view services - in November 2011, RoS provided access to the metadata created in phase 1 to the Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure. At the same time, RoS provided a view of its initial cadastral parcel data. For the deadline, RoS chose to use the services of a third party (ThinkWhere) to host the WMS element of the service.
  • Phase 3: download - RoS delivered a service that will allow a customer to download all or part of our land register dataset. RoS again chose to use professional services of a Think Where to host the download service. Licensing considerations on the reuse of data were investigated and led to the creation of an INSPIRE download license.
  • Phase 4: fully compliant - this phase will deliver full inspire compliance by supplying parcelled cadastral data by November 2017.


RoS has delivered the first three phases and is on course to fully comply by November 2017. The service is being increasingly used by customers and has sparked wider thinking about our data within RoS.

Lessons learned

The majority of the challenges that RoS faced were based on technical and compliance issues as well as data re-engineering. Our recommendation for any organisation with an INSPIRE obligation would be to ensure your internal domain expertise is brought together to guarantee you have a firm grasp of the issues and technical requirements required. For RoS, this meant a multi-disciplinary team drawn from IT, Geographic Information Systems ( GIS), senior management, legal, commercial and core business. RoS consulted widely with fellow organisations and took part in a number of UK and European working groups to make sure we had an understanding of our responsibilities, as well as having an opportunity to influence those discussions. We would recommend that organisations seek advice, support and best practice from professional bodies, as well as learning and investigating best practice from examples throughout the world, including RoS and the Scottish Government.

Although the investment in INSPIRE can be onerous, there are considerable benefits that can be accrued if your organisation is committed to INSPIRE. For RoS, this meant spatial data has been brought to the forefront of the business, improved our expertise, developed staff, and led to several customer-focussed initiatives. The core aspect of INSPIRE, data, and access to it, led us to re-evaluating data and data quality, as well as influencing a wider digital transformation project.

8. Scotland's Environment Web: EcoHack

Scotland's Environment Web wants to help people discover and understand more about the environment. Environmental data is really important - to provide context to reports on the state and quality of the environment, to improve our understanding of the challenges and opportunities our environment faces, and encourage communities, school children and individuals to investigate their own local environment further, observing what is happening around them, collect their own data and take action to protect and improve their local environment.


Putting our objectives into practice, a hackathon event was organised over the weekend of 30th and 31st May 2015. Students from universities throughout Scotland were invited to Edinburgh, to come up with fresh new innovative ideas to make better use of available data, and to collect new local environmental data that can help further our understanding, and encourage people to get interested and get involved in Scotland's Environment.

EcoHack webpage

Interest was generated in the event via a number of routes:

  • We had university lecturers and students on the steering group and who also helped out as mentors so were able to help spread the word to their students and peers.
  • A leaflet was sent to all universities and posted on their facebook pages.
  • For students one of the most accessible forms of quickly sharing information is on social media, with a lot of co-ordinated information sharing posts on facebook and twitter (#ScotEcoHack) in the run up to and during the event that were shared and retweeted to an extended audience, bringing lots of new twitter followers to @ScotEnvironment following #ScotEcoHack

Examples of the interest generated on twitter can be found here.


The EcoHack challenge

During the weekend event we challenged teams of students and mentors to explore data and develop ideas that could make a real difference in helping people observe, monitor, educate and take action in the environment. Ideas were encouraged around exploring new data relationships to help analyse the state of our environment and the impact it has on us, develop apps that use and visualise data to help explain and view the environment, and provide new ways of collecting and viewing data.

A wide range of open source data was available to the teams - dataset list - and they were allowed to choose any platform and programming language and spent the weekend collaborating and being creative, innovative and inventive.

In the run up to the event, we provided links to information about a range of environmental issues to inspire new Ecohack ideas, covering topics such as Air Pollution, Water, Soil, Young People and Citizen Science, Environmental data, Nature, data visualisation, EcoSchools, Climate Change and communities, mobile apps, infographics.

EcoHack mentors

We couldn't have run the event without the help and support from our mentors. With a wide range of skills and experience, they were on hand to provide advice and guidance to the students throughout the development of their ideas from initial scoping and definition right through to the development and presentation of the prototypes. Some of the mentors saw some real opportunities in using some of their own data and tapping into the expertise of their mentor colleagues, and worked together to develop some of their own ideas to share with us at EcoHack.


Feedback from all who attended was overwhelmingly positive and we hope to keep in touch with many of those who supported the event - judges, mentors and students. The standard of ideas was very high and in the end the judges selected 2 winning ideas and 1 runner up. More information on the winning ideas and a video of soundbites from the event on the EcoHack webpage.

EcoHack judges, mentors and students

9. Scottish Government: Dialogue App

In the digital age you need to find new and innovate ways to make the public want to engage with you. They are being inundated everyday with information and you need to make your requests stand out. If you want the public to respond you need to make it simple, quick and easy - people will be put off if they have to jump through hoops.

People are generally positive and keen for public authorities to try new ways of digital engagement. Don't be afraid to experiment with new tools, find what works best for your organisation and its needs.


The Open Data Strategy made a commitment that we would engage with the public to discover what types of public sector data and formats would like to see released as open data. The Dialogue App to enable everyone to participate in an open discussion about what types of data they would like to see released. The format of the Dialogue App also encouraged users to fully explain why they thought the release of that particular data was important, allowing us to gain a better understanding of the viewpoints submitted.


The wording of the question was specifically chosen to be as open as possible. This was to ensure that we did not influence the ideas submitted and it gave users the freedom to submit any ideas they may have had. Succinct background information on open data and that strategy was provided to ensure that users understood what we were asking and why.


  • Dialogue App discussion took place between 8th June and 14 July.
  • A total of 18 ideas were posted from 9 individuals which in turn received 8 comments.
  • A further 11 individuals signed up to the Dialogue but did not contribute to the discussion.

This summary will not explain the ideas in detail, you can read all ideas in full online. The ideas covered a wide range of topics. The image below shows the areas the topics broadly covered.

This image shows the ‘tags’ submitted by users to describe their idea
This image shows the 'tags' submitted by users to describe their idea

Of the 17 ideas submitted, 10 of them received ratings from other users (18 ratings in total) and 4 received comments. Due to the relatively small number of submissions the ability to analyse, obtain insights and conclusions is limited. The following analysis should be read with the limitations in mind.

The following table lists the ideas submitted by users:


Formats (if mentioned)

Average Score (if rated)

Release data set of Polling Station Locations and coverage


MSP and Scottish Councillor expenses


Release data set of candidates standing at election as soon as possible


Recently validated planning applications - GeoRSS or similar.

GeoRSS feed


Shape files of administrative boundaries

Shapefile, KML


Join up existing sources - encourage use of linked data

Boundaries and details of common good lands and assets

Shapefile, Geojson


Local authorities register of assets


Rental statistics


Heritage Change Data

Town Centre Access Standards

Elections Information

Parking Bay Information

Asset Registers

Community Centre Information


Public authority abandoned buildings


Nursing Home Information

The above summary shows that there were a wide range of ideas, covering many topics. Whilst many of the submissions had a clear idea about what type of information they would like to see released (and what information the dataset should contain), very few made any suggestions about format. The only suggestions around format concerned spatial data.

The most popular idea in terms of both comments and ratings was ' rental statistics'. This idea concerned the release of data concerning the private rental sector and the user provided ideas of the type of information which would be useful. This idea received a full 5 star rating based on 5 votes. It also received 3 comments which were in full support of the idea.

Nearly a quarter of all ideas submitted concerned the release of information on public sector assets, both physical (land, buildings etc) and non-physical (asset registers). This suggests that the release of this information would be popular and well received by the public, although with the caveat that only a small number of people responded to the discussion.

Lessons Learned

This was the first time that the Dialogue App had been used by the Scottish Government, so we didn't know what to expect. The main 'lessons' were:

  • Invest time in promotion - even if you think you have done enough, do more! The public are being inundated with information everyday and you need to find a way to make your work stand out from the rest.
  • Timing - feedback indicated that the response rate may have been low because it was held over the summer period. Think about the audience you are trying to attract and then consider when they are most likely to engage.
  • Be careful not to word your question too wide - trying to get the balance right is tricky. You want to give participants enough scope to answer how they want but not too wide as to put them off.


Back to top