Unlocking the Value of Public Sector Data for Public Benefit minutes: April 2022

Minutes from the second meeting of the Independent Expert Group for the Unlocking the Value of Scotland's Public Sector Personal Data Programme, held on 27 April 2022.


Attendees and apologies


  • Angela Daly, University of Dundee (Chair)
  • Annie Sorbie, University of Edinburgh
  • Ruchir Shah, Open Government and Civil Society Activist
  • Esperanza Miyake, University of Strathclyde
  • James Stevenson, Duo Verre Partnership LLP
  • Colin Birchenall, Digital Office, Scottish Local Government
  • Charlie Mayor, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Mahlet Zimeta (‘Milly’), The Open Data Institute
  • Carol Young, Deputy Director of the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
  • Alexander Weir, Canon Medical Research Europe Ltd.
  • Ronnie Kelly, Fujitsu UK 

Scottish Government Secretariat

  • Sophie Ilson (SG), Lucille Brown (LB)


  • none

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed the new IEG members: Carol Young as Deputy Director of the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, Alexander Weir, Ronnie Kelly. Ronnie Kelly and Alexander Weir represent technical expertise that the IEG members flagged up as being a necessary component of the group.


The need for absolute clarity on the scope of the work was underlined. The scope is defined as: ‘The use of public sector personal data that already exists, with or by the private sector.'

The need to involve NGOs and civil society was recognised, as well as the need to have more technological representation on the IEG membership.

Following on from the last IEG meeting It was concluded that charities and NGOs are out of scope for this work, but we can flag relevant issues for consideration, of action, to these organisations. 

We need to consider what infrastructure is available for private sector access to public sector personal data. Again, this is outside the scope of this group but can be flagged for further work needed.

It was suggested to delineate the approaches to the work by purpose rather than by sector (private/public/third).

It was also suggested that the emphasis of this work is placed on distinguishing the public /private binary as well as making sure that the concept of the data economy is focused across these sectors – this could be done in the messaging rather than as scope. For legal and operational reasons, there can be public/private delineation.

Use case presentations

Ryan Anderson, Digital Health and Care SG, spoke about Digital Health and Care Strategy and issues raised by engagement activities from Data Dialogue findings.

The group reflected that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ and there are a myriad of public views. Important to take this into account when addressing our public engagement.

Martin Browne, Research Data Scotland (RDS), highlighted a commercial data use case.

Action: questions for Martin to take to RDS:

  • to describe financial flows during the work
  • what was the company’s interest in this? Did they use the data to develop a product?
  • is the data reused in another format or repurposed for another use?
  • was there reuse of the processes that were established or methodologies established or infrastructure, or software development that was used in the process? Or are skills developed by the programme also redeployed? This is useful to understand in terms of the overall benefit of the programme
  • was there a time limit on the access by the private company to the data? To what extent was the company allowed continued access to the data, and what further benefit were they able to establish from that access beyond the original scope of the programme?

SG Secretariat explained that the third literature review currently being commissioned for this work will examine the notion of Benefit Sharing in the UK, and also internationally.

Marian Aldhous, Health and Social Care Public Benefit and Privacy Panel.

Use case focused on issues raised by requests for NHSS data with commercial involvement.

In discussion, the point was made that it can be quite difficult to quantify public benefit when research with a commercial partner may be early Research and Development, or serendipitous discovery. The anticipated benefit and how we appraise its likelihood / impact / scope, and then represent that it in a contract, or ethical decision, is potentially quite tricky

In answer to the question ‘since these judgements are prospective are there any feedback loops so you can see what happens?’, Marian said they create an ‘end of project’ report to understand how well it worked and a public impact assessment to establish if the expected outcomes expected were achieved. This is part of their continuous improvement processes

A challenge with quantifying the benefits of data sharing, is that some of the benefits are externalities and/or indirect, so not always captured in the Treasury's more linear formulae

Programme outputs

The focus is on developing a High-Level Policy Statement for private sector access to public sector personal data.

Examples of high-level policy statements shared were Joined up Data for Better Decisions: Guiding Principles for Data Linkage and Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital.

For the latter example, SG developed an early set of principles (only two pages), as a basis for conversation with stakeholders and general public, to determine which areas to focus on. It has been well-received by the wider community.

Our programme of work may require a longer report, including evidence and background details, with outputs tailored for different audiences.

Need to consider timeline and what outputs to achieve and when.

For the ‘Call for Evidence, we should note the approach used for Scotland’s AI Strategy: an open and ongoing consultation, with a user-friendly interface.

Consultation methods –The analysis often relates to key word searches and headline data. This can lose the results of groups that are marginalised, who need their voices heard the most. Therefore as many methods in use as possible is advantageous to reach as many voices as possible. Also particular targeting of specific groups where relevant eg the individual views of those with protected characteristics.

The point was made that NGOs and general public are not well resourced to respond to consultations so we need to make sure we have alternative, pro-active means of engaging with these groups.

Action: members are encouraged to share other examples of high-level policy statements with the group.  

Communications and engagement

SG website 

A web presence for the UVOD Programme has been created.

Minutes from the first IEG meeting are now published on the web page for this group. This aligns with the Open Government and transparent approach to developing this programme, and the importance of prioritising trust from the public in the work.

We will also publish evidence papers and briefing papers in advance of the meetings they are tabled at, and invite comments which can then inform the discussions at the meeting.

Guidance text will be added to set expectations for readers as well as for the IEG members – e.g. how much weight will be given to the public feedback (and strategy if it looks as if an external campaign group might be shaping public engagement).

As the process for monitoring and responding to public feedback will be managed by Secretariat, there will be no requirement for IEG members to respond to comments directly.

Blogs – we encourage group members to blog about the UVOD Programme. We would welcome the opportunity to view blogs in advance, if possible. These blogs can also be tweeted and re-tweeted by group members, from their individual accounts.

In this phase, our comms activity is focused on generating blog content by group members, supplemented by social media activity. We will also consider the proportionate use of SG’s corporate channels (blogs sites, social media accounts, Digital Scotland newsletter), to raise awareness and amplify messaging.

The group considered the most effective ways to engage the public thorough interactive platforms.

Action: Secretariat to discuss options for interactive online engagement with SG Comms and report back to the group.

Practitioner forum

Aim to engage a Practitioner Forum later on in the programme and particularly in order to test if guidelines that are developed by the group are appropriate to be operationalised. Also should we engage practitioners out-with the public sector, such as those from the private sector?

The Data and Intelligence Network may be a route to a practitioner forum.

International engagement / conference attendance

We have submitted a ‘track’ to the Data for Policy Conference.

Meeting timings and length

The group will consider having presentations in a different format to allow more time for discussion in future meeting.

AOB / next meeting

The next meeting will be held on the 25 May 2022 between 13:00 and 14:30. 

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