Any new field of knowledge needs adjustments to language so that everyone discussing it knows what others are talking about. The discussions surrounding the re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI) and the evolving concept of Open Data are no exception. Indeed many policy papers on PSI or Open Data include a glossary, to ensure people can read the document and understand it.
We are seeking your input and specific feedback on open data definitions . Go to data.gov.uk/glossary to click on a definitions and tell us/what you think. Find out it more about the glossary below:
Any new field of knowledge needs adjustments to language so that everyone discussing it knows what others are talking about. The discussions surrounding the re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI) and the evolving concept of Open Data are no exception.
Indeed many policy papers on PSI or Open Data include a glossary, to ensure people can read the document and understand it.
The problem with current open data terms and definitions
Unfortunately there lies a problem. If each policy document has its own glossary, defining different terms, or, worse still, the same words with subtly different definitions, no common language will evolve and many discussions will be at cross purposes.
One area where this cannot be allowed to happen is legislation. So when laws are drafted the definitions enshrined in them, however controversial, are the definitions that will be used to interpret the law.
It is not surprising, then, that the Office for Public Sector Information (OPSI) in The National Archives, which is responsible for supporting both PSI policy and legislation, should have taken an interest in producing a standardised glossary. This document has existed for some time.
Unfortunately many other departments in government were either unaware of this glossary, or felt that their usage of terms was different, so they produced their own glossaries. This started to lead a lot of discussions on PSI or Open Data being at cross purposes as people used the same words, but presumed different meanings.
There is no perfect solution to this problem. Terms defined in legislation cannot be changed, because the law is what it is and depends on definitions remaining unchanged and being adopted by all. However there is a better way to avoid misunderstanding. That is to produce a more consensual glossary that everyone can have a say on.
Send us your feedback on Open data terms and definitions
For this reason a suggestion from the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI), which provides advice to OPSI, was picked up by the Cabinet Office and included in the Open Data White Paper. Rather than providing a closed glossary, based only on APPSI recommendations, APPSI suggested that a mechanism should be created to allow definitions to be debated and refined, so that the standardised glossary will be known to have widespread acceptance. This site provides access to the glossary and a mechanism to allow terms to be challenged, debated and refined.
Initially, the glossary is being subjected to a wiki-discussion. APPSI will treat the contents of this public feedback as advisory and will maintain, and advise on, the developing glossary, which will continue to be made available on data.gov.uk. The definitions included there will improve and be extended and should be treated as the recommended standard meanings of Open Data and PSI terms.
Government departments and others should no longer need to invent new glossaries of terms for policy documents on Open Data and PSI, as they will be able to refer to this standard glossary on data.gov.uk. APPSI will continue to monitor developments and adjust the glossary in response to suggestions. Where a policy paper’s authors decide that they need an alternative definition for a term, it should become good practice to state specifically that the definition being used is not the standard definition and why and to notify APPSI.
The glossary as a new resource
It is intended, as implied in the Open Data White Paper, that the data.gov.uk Glossary of Terms, maintained by APPSI, will become a useful standard resource for policy development. So have a go. Take a look at the terms suggested so far and their definitions. If you like them say so, if you disagree say why and suggest a new or improved definition. If you think terms are missing suggest them. All suggestions will be taken account of, if not necessarily adopted – but you will be able to follow the discussion on the Wiki.
After a few months of consultation a fixed edition of the Glossary will be made available which will not be changed until a new edition is needed, but the wiki will continue so that future editions of the glossary can be kept up to date and relevant. Over to you; tell us what you think and take part now.
Dr Bob Barr (@DrBobBarr)
Expert member of APPSI and ODUG