“More eyes, better data”
We have written many posts over the last two years on open data and the many data portals that are now available, providing open access to a range of datasets. However as Anders Pedersen (Open Knowledge Foundation) recently remarked during a data skills training initiative, open data does not end with setting up an open data portal; it’s not enough to just make the data available, the data also has to be ‘reusable and redistributable’.That means publishing the data in more open formats, such as .csv and .txt as opposed to pdfs, to provide the widest possible access to the data.
Pedersen also urged those responsible for establishing data portals to remember that once a data portal is operational the work doesn’t end there. Much remains to be done to keep the site and its content up to date, and promoting the portal to make sure people know about it and what information it provides access to. This means those who maintain portals must have the necessary data collection, management and visualisation skills to support this ongoing effort. Improved access should widen the potential audience for the data, something Pedersen argues will be good for data quality; other agencies and interested citizens will help validate the data, hence ‘more eyes, better data’.
We have reported some examples of portals that have slipped into obsolescence due to a lack of continued support and the comments from Frank Biasi (National Geographic Maps) who reflected on the demise of a conservation geoportal noting, amongst other things, that “.. the concept of sharing data is much more advanced than the practice“. Training initiatives like those offered by the OKF will hopefully help those involved with open data learn from the experiences of others and avoid some of the mistakes of earlier projects.