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

Minutes from the seventh meeting of the group, held on 26 October 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Angela Daly, University of Dundee (Chair) (AD)
  • Ruchir Shah, Open Government and Civil Society Activist
  • Esperanza Miyake, University of Strathclyde
  • Annie Sorbie, University of Edinburgh
  • Charlie Mayor, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Carol Young, Deputy Director of the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
  • Anna Berti Suman (ABS) (external; for item 2)
  • Stephanie Switzer (SS) (external; for item 2)
  • Rachel Nixseaman, The Democratic Society (RN) (external; for item 3)


  • James Stevenson, Duo Verre Partnership LLP


  • Mahlet Zimeta (‘Milly’), The Open Data Institute
  • Colin Birchenall, Digital Office, Scottish Local Government
  • Ronnie Kelly, Fujitsu UK
  • Alexander Weir, Canon Medical Research Europe Ltd.

Scottish Government (SG) Secretariat

  • Christopher Bergin (CB), Lucille Brown (LB)

Items and actions

Welcome (AD)

AD welcomed all attendees, including three external guests who would present insights relating to items two (Literature Review) and three (public engagement activity by The Democratic Society).  An open invitation was made for anyone to write up post-attendance reflections.

Key points:

  • the importance of accessible communication of UVOD activities was re-emphasised. 
  • all published blogs and the three commissioned Literature Reviews (plus any other forthcoming reports and relevant materials) should be made available on the programme web section
  • the recent blog post from the webinar host was well-received by members


  • Secretariat to ensure all blogs and literature reviews can be accessed via the Programme web landing page
  • Secretariat to explore options for further externally-sourced blog posts

Presentation: literature review ‘models of benefit sharing etc. regarding use of public sector personal data with or by the private sector’ 

ABS and SS presented an overview of their findings from a commissioned literature review, developed through summer / autumn 2022. The draft Executive Summary from the third literature review had been circulated to IEG members in advance of the meeting, allowing time for reflection on the overarching findings / insights.

Key points:

  • it was recognised that while the key terms, ‘public benefit’, public interest’ and ‘public value’, are interconnected concepts, it is not helpful to use these terms interchangeably
  • the presentation covered various sub-topics, including the strong role for justice and need for caution in possible “assetisation” of data (defined as the process of converting something into – or viewing it as - an asset), when viewed as a resource from which to derive benefit/s
  • ABS and SS highlighted the inherent subjectivity of judgements (i.e. ‘normativity') in decisions of what constitutes value, and how the meaning of value is co-created and may not have immutable permanence
  • the risk of being exclusionary was raised, since those who have resources and skills may gain an advantage in accessing value, with others unable to gain access could therefore miss out on the benefits. Furthermore, “valuing data” could be said to be part of a particular values system
  • the need to be careful about terminology was acknowledged; the same words do not mean the same things to all groups: in both practitioner / professional spaces and across the ‘publics’ (i.e. multiple public groups: not a homogenised public)
  • the public(s) must be engaged in ways that are accessible, and this includes issues of expense (monetary or otherwise) and burden, on both sides (i.e. for public bodies and the public)
  • it was agreed that a case study from ‘Pandemic Influenza Preparedness’ network, would be added
  • several IEG members expressed an interest in being involved in the final wrap-up of the work. They will be sent the literature review (after the ‘PIP’ example is added), to allow for comments to be shared with the academics, and the final version to be completed, before the end of the year


  • circulate a minimally-updated version of the literature review, and allow for two weeks to share any comments with ABS and SS, so they can complete their work

Update on public engagement: comments from The Democratic Society facilitators after recent workshop (presentation)

One of two advisory public engagement workshops has now taken place. This was conducted online, on Thursday, 6 October.

An update from The Democratic Society included interim insights, to inform discussion about next iteration of the draft guiding principles, as well as any adjustments to the format, or materials, for the second public engagement workshop, in Inverness (this in-person event has now been postponed to January 2023).

Key points (from the workshop):

  • the group agreed that ‘value’ in the context of public sector-held personal data for use with, or by, the private sector should not equate to financial value; it must be a broader public / societal value and benefit
  • public attendees highlighted that if there was any harm at all, then this would negate the public benefit (this is not the position of law on the term, but it was what the participants stated to the facilitators), i.e. ‘any harm to any one means no public good’
  • ‘public value’ can be temporary and so therefore should be kept under review. Trust is also not a one-off; it needs to be maintained
  • concern was expressed that they would not be able to “take back” their data if they changed their minds about the granting of permission
  • the concept of ‘consent’ was discussed by public participants, and it was noted that this is not always the framework for permitted data access and use
  • it was clear that the current mechanisms are not deemed to be adequate by participants
  • RN acknowledged close linkage to the findings from the literature review

Revisiting the guiding principles and IEG report update

The Chair invited LB to give an overview of progress on the IEG report, including options for the format and audience/s.

Key points:

  • it was agreed that the draft guiding principles will form a core part of the IEG report and that context / guidance on what to do with the principles is required
  • the report can serve the purpose of updating on the IEG work (February 2022 to January / February 2023)
  • the IEG is a key part of the UVOD programme and support for the next phase of the UVOD programme is part of the IEG’s remit
  • the IEG has been in ‘listening mode’ and will move into analytical mode from November onwards
  • there is a need to deliver solutions that are implementable, whilst recognising the need for ongoing work to guide and reassure data controllers
  • the report must have an accessible format (the Chair asked about the possibility of a design budget)
  • SG could lead by example in showcasing its own data handling processes, thereby offering more leadership and reassurance to public sector data controllers
  • the Chair called on IEG members to contribute to co-producing the IEG report (e.g. providing examples or use cases, as well as contributing to the draft guiding principles)
  • IEG members agreed linkage with the work of the Practitioner Forum (who will meet for the first time on 16 November) is essential


  • Secretariat to set up a shared document for the IEG Report (giving all IEG members access), and consider how to draw in expertise and insights from the Practitioner Forum for the Report
  • Secretariat to establish if there is funding available to make the final IEG Report output more accessible and readable

Conference participation:

  • the video presentation for the forthcoming Data For Policy 2022 international conference has now been recorded - a link will be shared when this is available
  • three IEG members (plus a Secretariat member) have developed a discussion paper for the conference. This will also be made available to the wider group (the paper is a distinct output and does not represent the views of the IEG as a whole, or the Scottish Government)
  • there is the possibility of an academic book chapter, related to the academic work underway. IEG members who are interested, can contact the Chair for more information


  • Secretariat to share Data For Policy Conference materials with the group

The Chair closed the meeting by outlining the priorities for the next meeting. She reminded members that after IEG#8, there will be a two-month pause until the final meeting of the IEG.

Next IEG meeting: 14 December 2022, 11:00 to 13:00

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