Make official figures more useful and accessible, say MPs

17 March 2014

Open data is a great thing of which we have seen too little, too late, too poorly done.

Our words in evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee last year, which has been assessing the government's approach to making data freely accessible and easy to use and share - so-called 'open data'.

Today they recommended a new approach to making the government's statistics more usable. Based on a five-star rating system for assessing the openness of data suggested by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Committee is recommending the government adopt a rating system developed by Full Fact for open statistics.

This would mean a drive towards official figures that are not just published as a minimum, but figures that are also well explained with caveats highlighted, easy to find and link to, machine readable and with links to other people's data to provide context.

The Committee said:

"We recommend above that the Government adopt the "five-star" system along the lines proposed by Involve, for open data engagement. A second "five-star" rating system, developed by Full Fact for assessing the usability of government statistics, would support the efforts of statisticians to play a more active role in open data. This system should also be adopted by the Cabinet Office in assessing departmental progress on open data."

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