Category Archives: Transforming Information

Open Data

Data is considered to be ‘open’ if it is freely available for anyone to use, re-use or redistribute it for any purpose without restriction or charge. The UK Government is committed to placing data and information into the public domain to enable citizens to understand the basis for Government decisions, how public sector organisations spend the money allocated to them and ultimately to enable citizens to hold public sector organisations to account for their performance.

The Transforming Information Programme is running pilot projects to explore how data can be released more openly. We know that our customers want to be able to access data which is more timely, which is also in line with the UKSA Code of Practice which requires that data should be released as soon as it is judged ready.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has suggested that open data can be categorised by using a 5-star schema.  We regularly release data at 1 star, 2 star and 3 star levels but in order to make this officially ‘open data’ we need to release it under an open data licence to govern its use. Without this the data cannot be reused freely. We are exploring how we can open data more widely through a number of pilot projects and those findings along with the recommendations of the Open Data Strategy for Scotland, will inform our plans for 2015.

Margaret MacLeod
Open Data Workstream Lead

Taking Care of Scottish Health Statistics

“Can we make official health statistics better?” was the question posed to attendees at our user engagement event on 17 June. Run jointly by UK Statistics Authority and ourselves here at ISD, this event was part of our Transforming Information Programme. The aim of the day was to better understand user needs to help inform improvements in quality, value, accessibility and impact of  information. The event was open to anybody with an interest in health statistics and anyone that couldn’t come along could follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #healthstats.

The major part of the day was devoted to discussion. Delegates considered and chatted their way through a range of subjects and the room was buzzing with animated discussions at every table. We found out lots about what people use data for and why time was such a critical issue for many. We heard a new term (well new to me at least) ‘statistical neighbours’ to describe localities that were demographically and geographically similar to allow more effective comparisons. We also discovered what level of detail was useful and what did and didn’t work in terms of the way in which data are released.

There was plenty learning to take away but the stand outs for me were:

  • health is broader than the health service;
  • one size definitely does not fit all;
  • speed is of the essence for some customers;
  • ‘raw’ is the way to go for those with confident in their own analytical skills;
  • an alternative to the current ISD publications process would be valued;
  • more focus on explaining what the data is saying.

Reassuringly there was a clear appreciation of, and confidence in, the statistics produced by ISD so it sounded like we are starting off from a solid base.

The Transforming Information Programme has put together a report of the day which gives lots more detail about the content and the discussion. We also have a  ‘Storify’ which tells the day in tweets, which you can find at:

The learning from this event should be of huge benefit to the Transforming Information Programme. It will inform what we do with the data we holds, consider how we can improve the way data are analysed and presented and released to better inform our customers.

Joyce Dalgleish

Communications Manager