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

Minutes from the third meeting of the Independent Expert Group for the Unlocking the Value of Scotland's Public Sector Personal Data Programme, held on 25 May 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
  • 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.  


  • James Stevenson, Duo Verre Partnership LLP


  • Colin Birchenall, Digital Office, Scottish Local Government
  • Ronnie Kelly, Fujitsu UK 

Scottish Government Secretariat

  • Sophie Ilson (SG), Chris Bergin (CB), Lucille Brown (LB)

Items and actions

Welcome (AD)

The Chair reminded the group that we have reached the half-way point in the Independent Expert Group (IEG) six-meeting schedule. 

Review intentions for IEG activities and outputs

The Chair invited members’ views on the proposed outputs (a high-level policy statement, along with a set of principles) that can aid the decision-making of public sector data controllers. The guidance may require some kind of support network to sense-check decisions.

Key points:

  • it was acknowledged that outputs and engagement are inextricably linked
  • we will need to ensure clarity and tailor different approaches/outputs for different audiences
  • however, it was recognised that we need to make all of these approaches available to all
  • the value of ‘real life’ case studies was highlighted and the need for both transparency as well as accountability
  • it was suggested that project management approaches can help with this kind of planning, for example assessing impact, likelihood of impact and mitigation. e.g. we could consider Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and Smart Objectives
  • it was noted that the private sector needs a clear set of core principles and clarity regarding access to public sector personal data, with consideration of public benefit being at the core

Extension of Independent Expert Group

The group agreed to extend the work of the IEG beyond September (to December 2022) and to clarify the purpose of the extension. The broader political and legal context is fluid, e.g. issues arising from the UK Data Reform Bill. A third literature review is also due at the end of September 2022.

Output 1: Draft/interim high-level policy statement for discussion

Key Points:

  • a high-level statement will need to be clear, concise and well-nuanced
  • the group agreed an interim statement will be prepared by the end of June
  • the group agreed to publish an early draft (‘open document’) in order to maximise transparency and gain actionable feedback
  • statement should consist of approx. six short paragraphs or bullet points, on a single page, akin to Natural Capital Interim Principles
  • we can use our comms channels to promote the interim policy statement

Action: Secretariat to inform Ministers of this proposed approach.

Practitioner forum

Key Points:

  • it was agreed that the Chair will update practitioners on the progress of the IEG on a monthly basis
  • the Chair asked the following:

i. Should we survey practitioners about issues related to private sector access to public sector personal data?

ii. What could we be do with practitioners that we are not?

iii. What should we be doing to engage industry/private sector practitioners? (Noting the current absence of industry representation on the forum)

  • undertaking focus group activity before you create a survey will help to inform survey questions
  • important to target people who have expertise and who are able to apply the information, i.e. those who are receiving or making requests for this kind of data access
  • the aim is to engage with practitioners first in order to develop a tangible output to engage the public on
  • practitioners will be able to identify issues related to private sector access to public sector personal data
  • this will inform the high-level policy statement and principles for public engagement
  • we have mobilised a set of public sector practitioners who are ready to engage
  • need to compile a list of industry targets who are likely to want access to public sector personal data
  • there are established groups and research programmes that we can approach
  • with an existing focus on health technology, we need to ensure other sectors are included

Action: IEG members to compile a list of industry representation.

Output 2: Guiding principles to aid decision-making

Key points:

  • it was suggested that we host a single webinar with the IEG Group in June – a drafting workshop for interim principles – to which we would invite public sector practitioners
  • a panel would comprise the IEG members
  • people without access to video cameras could observe and contribute via the chat
  • we would develop a Plan B if it transpires this is not feasible within the timescale envisaged

Action: Secretariat to update Ministers on this proposal.

Action: Chair to draft initial draft of principles and share with the group. Group members will feed back on them.

Action: Secretariat to contact industry stakeholders and set up a webinar.

Output 3: Research

Literature Reviews – Two completed and one to be finished by the end of September 2022.

Output 4: Conference attendance

i. Data for Policy Conference  - Special Track, plus abstract

ii. International Population Data Linkage Network (IPDLN) Conference – considering input

Communications and engagement

A communications plan, focused on the first phase of the Programme, was circulated to group members, in advance of this meeting.  

Summary of comms activities / outputs (since IEG#2 meeting):

  • Chair blog - the first in a series of monthly blogs by group members - published on the Scottish Government’s blog site
  • Chair Op Ed in Herald – published on 18 May 2022.
  • content for Digital Scotland newsletter, supplemented by twitter activity
  • content for Non-Departmental Public Bodies Chief Executive’s Forum Newsletter – content will be cascaded to staff within Scottish public bodies
  • Scottish Government intranet news article – to raise internal awareness of the programme – published on 10 May

Other points:

  • tweeting (and retweeting) by group members will be helpful in terms of amplifying messages
  • build a clearer delineation of audiences into the comms plan
  • different channels will be deployed proportionately to target different audiences
  • video content - YouTube channel will have a particular type of audience
  • need to consider whether we can do something more synchronous in comms and engagement terms once the principles are agreed
  • starting point for engagement - frame this as a specific challenge and then invite people to rally around this
  • additional communication methods could include informatics and FAQs

Action: IEG members to consider methods for optimal engagement (acknowledging primary and secondary audiences).

AOB / Next meeting: 29 June 2022 – 1.00 – 2.30pm

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