Open Data Strategy

Sets out our ambition for making data open and available for others to use and reuse.

Section 3 - How will we make our Data Open?

This strategy adopts the G8 Open Data Principles, set out in the diagram below. We will follow an Intelligent Approach to doing so.

Open Data Principles

Open Data by Default - Those holding public data should make it open and available for others to re-use. Those collecting new data should ensure that the opening up of the data for re-use is built in to the process so that Open Data becomes part of the business process.

Quality and Quantity - The amount of public data we own is huge but the quality of that data will vary. Published data will be supported by metadata so that consumers of the data understand it and are aware of any limitations within it. We will seek to release data in a timely and frequent manner.

Useable by All - Data should be published in a manner which supports both easy discovery and easy re-use of the data. This includes ensuring that the format it is published in supports re-use and that it is accompanied by an open licence. Data will be made available free, with defined exceptions.

Releasing Data for Improved Governance - We will release data which supports delivery of better public services. We will use our data to improve the services and policies we deliver. We will seek through the release of data to better inform and engage with citizens.

Releasing Data for Innovation - We will encourage and empower others to make use of the data we release to develop new products and services, for non-commercial and commercial use, which will create wider economic and societal benefits. We will encourage use of the data in education to increase awareness and participation and inspire a new generation of data users.

To support realisation of these principles we need to consider the following:

Open data by default arrow Organisations' open data plans
Quantity and quality: arrow Improve the quality of the data
Useable by all: arrow Discoverability of Open Data
arrow Accessibility and Usability of Open Data
Releasing data: arrow Identification and Prioritisation of Open Data

We also need to address:

Exceptions where it is appropriate to charge for Open Data

Licensing data for re-use

Organisational open data publication plans

To realise the vision of a Scotland which makes its public data open, we need all organisations to develop and implement their own Open Data publication plans. An open data publication plan will set out the organisation's commitment to making its data open and identify how and when they will achieve this, including the data that will be made open. Organisations should identify core data which they plan to make open (this includes one off data sets and time series data sets which will be published on a recurring basis). Where appropriate organisations may link to existing Freedom of Information publication schemes.

National Action - We will develop a resource pack which includes a suggested template to support production of a plan.


The range of data held by organisations is very different and the quality of the data will also vary. We will seek to ensure that the data which we publish is of a high quality and is comprehensible and accurate. Where there are gaps in data we will clearly articulate these and encourage feedback mechanisms to help further improve the quality of the data. Where we are providing time series data we will seek to ensure that we provide this on a continuing basis. This will be a large task for many organisations and will potentially require new processes to be built in to achieve this.

National Action - We will ensure organisations can access training to assist them in recognising the value of data and improving the quality of it.


In publishing our data we need to ensure that we do so in such a way as to make it easy for others to find the data and to understand what is contained within the data. Providing accurate metadata with our data is essential. Metadata provides an opportunity to enhance the value of the data and provide clarity on what the data is and what it is not, any limitations to the data and/or its use can also be included within the metadata. Providing good metadata can support those using the data in not only finding it but also bringing together other data sets which relate to it, for instance data consumers can search for data by theme.

Organisations in Scotland are already publishing data on their websites or within dedicated data stores and some are already working together on regional and thematic publishing platforms. Organisations, in particular those with smaller volumes of data, should consider making use of existing publishing platforms or collaborating with others.

To support greater discoverability of data we will seek to establish a Scottish Data Discovery Site. This will provide those searching for data with a common entry point to all of Scotland's Open Data. The site will link to existing websites and data stores and to those which are developed in the future. Through the provision of good metadata when organisations publish their data, the site will allow people to search for data in a number of ways ( e.g. by organisation, by theme).

National Action - We will develop a resource pack which includes guidance on creation and use of metadata.

National Action - We will establish a Scottish Data Discovery Site

Accessibility and Usability

To support reuse of data it is important to recognise that data can be made available in different formats. There is a universally recognised 5* schema proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee for the deployment of Open Data [4] :

1 star available on the web (whatever format) but with an open licence, to be Open Data
2 stars available as machine-readable structured data ( e.g. excel instead of image scan of a table)
3 stars as (2) plus non-proprietary format ( e.g. csv rather than excel)
4 stars all of the above plus, use open standards from WC3 ( e.g. RDF (Resource Description Framework) and SPARQL ( SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language) to identify things, so that people can point at your stuff
5 stars all of the above, plus link your data to other people's data to provide content

We will seek to publish our data as 3* and work towards where appropriate, and there is demand, offering it in higher formats.

National Action - We will develop a resource pack which includes guidance on format and available technologies.

Identification and Prioritisation

In making data open we seek to do so in an intelligent and managed manner. To do this we need to identify the data which we already hold. Then we need to prioritise for release.

Engagement with potential users of the data (including citizens, community groups, industry, academia and other public bodies) will help to identify data which is of most of interest. Such engagement will also inform the importance to users of the format in which data is released.

National Action - We will establish channels of communication to identify key data sets and the types of data which users are interested in and thus in which organisations should work towards making open .

Charging for Data

Our starting point is organisations should not charge for data. Open data should be made available at no cost to the user. There are a small number of exceptions to this, such as payment for additional services, licensing restrictions and trading funds (e.g Registers of Scotland). Where the payment is for the provision of an additional service which adds value to the data, such as analysis or computation of the data, any charges for service are out with the scope of this strategy and should be in line with an organisation's own policies.

Organisations should make the raw unprocessed data available at no cost. Some existing data may have licensing restrictions which require payment for use of data. When creating, commissioning or buying new data organisations should work on the principle that the data will be made open and available for re-use at no cost. The EU Re-Use of Public Sector Information Directive was updated in 2013 and is due to be transposed into UK legislation in 2015. It introduces the principle that charges for re-use of data should be set at no more than marginal cost, with exceptions in certain circumstances (such as trading funds). It also sets out that there should be transparency around any charging mechanisms which exist.

National Action - We will promote awareness of the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015, to ensure organisations are aware of them and what they need to do to comply with them.


When publishing data organisations should ensure that they make the data available under the Open Government Licence ( OGL) [5] . This will ensure that others can make use of the data. Where it is not possible or appropriate to use the OGL then organisations should seek to provide clear licensing information to potential users of the data, so they are clear as to how they can use the data.

National Action - We will develop a resource pack which provides guidance on licensing.

By considering each of these issues, organisations will be well placed to make their data open in an intelligent manner. Making data open will invite feedback from those who use the data.

Receiving feedback on the data we make open is valuable. Feedback and engagement can:

  • Improve the quality of the data
  • Provide insight in to the data
  • Bring wider groups in to the design of public services

Organisations can mitigate any perceived risk and improve the feedback they receive by ensuring that when publishing open data that they provide clear and accurate metadata, which states what the data is and any limitations it may contain.


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