Open Data publishing workshop

What data publishing tools do you use?

A few months ago lots of people helped the Open Data Institute (ODI) crowdsource a Long List of Open Data Publishing Tools. Many of those tools now appear in the ODI’s Open Data Publishing Tools Audit.

On Wednesday 27th September ODI Hampshire is running a workshop on behalf of the ODI for people and organisations who publish data. The emphasis is on statistical data, but anyone who publishes data is welcome to attend, and there’s still time to register via Eventbrite.

Which tools?

We’ll be discussing which tools people use for different stages of the data publication process, and what they’re used for. As reference we’ll use the Tools Audit, as well as the themes within the Open Data Maturity Model, and the open data publishing principles that Leigh Dodds wrote about on the ONS Digital blog. We are also interested in any tools which aren’t already on the list.

Where does it hurt?

Then, we’ll talk about the gaps – or ‘pain points’ – in the process.

We are trying to find out what makes publishing data slower, more tedious, and/or more costly, so we’ll explore questions like:

  • Do we need better tools (e.g. for cleaning data), or simply better integration of the various steps of the publishing process?
  • Is there a particular stage of publishing data that you really hate, which is slow and clunky and could be speeded up, if only…?

Steps to (publishing) heaven

Lastly, we will identify some practical ways these issues can start to be addressed. We want to propose a concrete set of ‘next steps’ which can be shared across the entire ODI network.

Quick Draw

We will take comprehensive notes throughout the workshop, which we’ll share with you afterwards. We’ll also produce a summary report for the ODI so they can share it more widely, and Drawnalism ‘In the Moment’ will be on-hand, live-drawing your ideas .

Register for the workshop


Localised Widening Participation Strategies – a data-based approach

The results of a year-long study by the Southern Policy Centre, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and GuildHE.

The study has used ‘open data’, and data held by local councils, to explore why able young people may miss out on university. The data has been used to suggest possible local widening participation strategies.

Good work in the open data community

A guest post from local open data expert Mark Braggins originally published on The post provides an excellent overview of some of the innovative open data work underway in our region.

In my previous post I argued that a combination of ‘chance’ and open data can lead to good stuff happening. I supplied a few examples, and also mentioned ‘engineering serendipity’, where ‘chance’ is given a bit of a boost.

In this post, I’m going to rattle through a few updates, and introduce a couple of new examples.

Updates from last time


At BlueLightCamp in May 2014, Chris Cooper – co-founder of Know Now Information – came up with the idea to use open data to try and predict when and where flooding might occur in future.

Know Now have been working with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at Hartree, and have created Flood Event Model, which has proven – with 85% accuracy – that open data from a wide variety of sources can be used to predict the precise location and time there will be an impact on human lives.

This means that emergency services can be forewarned, before an event takes place, giving them time to take action e.g. closing affected stretches of road, putting in place diversions, warning householders, and positioning resources where they’ll be most effective.

Making sense of the data – one of the visualisations from Flood Event Model, based on open data for Hampshire

Flood Event Model is still ‘just’ a model, however, and the next steps will include workshops in Hampshire to look at the practicalities of integrating it as a service into an operational environment. I’m pleased to be working with Know Now on that.

Footnote: Just spotted this article in the Financial Times, written by Clive Cookson, and also this press release by STFC.

Crowdsourcing landscape change

Back in my Hampshire Hub days, I helped instigate an initiative called Crowdsourcing Landscape Change (CLC). It’s a partnership between Remote Sensing Application Consultants (RSAC), the University of Portsmouth, and Hampshire County Council, with support from InnovateUK.

Basically, CLC uses two sets of aerial photographs – from 2005 and 2013 – and asks people to ‘spot the difference’ between two snapshots of the same location. Once you’ve registered, you can pick a square, or have one selected for you. There are some simple choices to make about what’s changed, and any differences you identify are captured as data (which will subsequently be released back into the wild as open data). For those who like a bit of healthy competition, there’s a leaderboard, and there’s also a forum where you can discuss what you find.

I’m really excited about CLC for various reasons:

●it can help inform us about the changing landscape

●it’s exploring how crowdsourcing can help in a public services context

●people are creating new data,which is being shared back with them again as open data

There’s more information on the Landscape Watch Hampshire web site, which is now ‘live’. Please give it a go – even if you aren’t in Hampshire – every observation gets added to the pot and adds value.


Another example from Hampshire is the work that the Geodata team at the University of Southampton has been doing with Aerial photography. This is another of those ‘unanticipated benefits’ that I was banging on about about earlier – basically councils in Hampshire released the images and data with an open licence, and Geodata have done some amazing stuff with it. Geodata created the Hampshire Data Portal, which lets you select and download aerial data in a variety of formats, and also lets you explore in 3D. It’s not finished yet, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it here.

Bus, pub, food, bus

There’s lots more about University of Southampton and open data in Joyce Lewis’ recent article in The Guardian: Opening doors to open data at the University of Southampton.

One of those which I mentioned previously is the map created by Chris Gutteridge and Dr Ash Smith. Amongst many other things, it includes food hygiene and transport open data, which helps students and staff find out which pubs and restaurants are on well-served bus routes.

Ventnor Minecraft

Well, Chris has been at it again, this time using open data to create a model of Ventnor (Isle of Wight) in Minecraft. Simon Perry from On the Wight covers it nicely in his article: Minecraft Ventnor: If you know a Minecraft fan, this will blow their minds, and Chris’ site is:

Actually, it was Chris and Ash’s work which first connected me with Sian Thomas from theFood Standards Agency (publishers of Food Hygiene Certificate open data), and led to Sian joining the organising team for Open Data Camp.

Speaking of which…

Open Data Camp

Open Data Camp – the first unconference in the UK devoted entirely to open data, took place in February 2015. By most accounts, it went rather well, and lots was written about it.

Over 150 people made it to Winchester over the weekend, despite the rail replacement bus service in place both North and South of Winchester!

We originally envisaged there’d be a hack as well as the unconference, but people ‘voted with their feet’, and it turned out to be predominantly unconference as there were so many interesting sessions.

Under pressure

That’s not to say that no development at all took place at the weekend: Nick Allott of Nquiringminds (one of the sponsors) was hard at work creating GP Pressure Map, which uses open data to identify which GP surgeries will be most under pressure by 2020.

It attracted lots of interest, and Nick was later interviewed about it for BBC South Today.

Overall, Open Data Camp went so well that everyone just assumed there would be another one. Whilst Winchester was a great venue, we all agreed that the next one would be “up North”, which brings us on to our very own Northern Power…Camp:

Open Data Camp 2

We couldn’t wait a whole year until the next one, so Open Data Camp 2 will be 10-11th October 2015, at The Shed, in Manchester.

Happily, the ODC organisers are dispersed across the UK, and Jamie Whyte is well-placed to lead the next event. Jamie runs Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab, and is well-connected with the open data and innovation community in-and-around Greater Manchester.

All of the original team are of course still involved, and this time we’re also being joined by Julian Tait of Open Data Manchester, and Vimla Appadoo of SpacePortX, who bring their own knowledge and local expertise.

At the time of writing, there are a few tickets left, but you’ll need to be quick as they’re going fast.

I’m particularly interested in any stories involving open data for a new venture (which will be the subject of my next post).

The Southern Policy Centre specialises in open data both as a research tool and as a policy area. See here for more about our work in the area, and see here for our work as ODI Hampshire.

Why are some areas falling behind in university participation?

SPC launches major new research project into widening participation to Higher Education

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) have produced and published a set of analysis that looks into trends in HE. In particular their statistics on young participation show that there are unexplained gaps in levels of participation from area to area.

The Southern Policy Centre have been commissioned by HEFCE to look more closely at five local authority wards in southern England. We want to know:

  1. Whether there are other available data sets that explain why participation in HE is lower than expected in these areas
  2. How we can use this information to improve widening participation strategies for these areas
  3. If we can use this research to produce a toolkit for other similar areas up and down the country

We’ll be working closely with universities, schools, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships to conduct this project.

For more info please contact Izaak on

Get updates on this work through the weekly newsletter

The Open Data Institute Node for Hampshire

The Southern Policy Centre has been awarded the status of ODI Node for Hampshire

As a network node for the Open Data Institute our job will be to demonstrate the value of open data to public organisations, businesses, and interested citizens across Hampshire.

Our own focus will be on using open data to solve tricky public policy issues. The first major demonstrator project will be our research into why some areas of southern England are not seeing as high levels of participation in university as they should.

We’ll also be building a network and bringing together open data experts with public policy makers across a series of workshops and through ODI Membership.


Business South: Digital Summit

On Friday 27th March John Denham, Chair of the Southern Policy Centre, spoke about our Open Data Initiative at Business South’s Digital Summit event held at Winchester Planetarium and Science Park.

It was a successful morning where we heard from many Digital experts in new and emerging technologies ranging from Drones, 3D Printing, Home Energy Saving Devices and new technology from Japan. The morning was closed by keynote speaker Lord Robert Winston.

See John’s slides below:

SPC launches Open Data initiative

As a key strand of its work, the Southern Policy Centre sets out to research, design, champion and test fresh approaches to ‘Open Data’ especially in response to the opportunity of public service reform.

Launching our ‘Open Data Initiative’, we welcomed Liam Maxwell, Government Chief Technology Officer, to address an audience of entrepreneurs, academics, coders, innovators and policy makers on ‘Government As A Platform’ for Change.

Drawing on international insights and his own experience of working to help save UK government over £14 billion, Maxwell made the case for a permanent revolution in our way of thinking and delivering with regard to information, data and innovation. Among the guests was Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Chairman of the Open Data Institute, of which SPC hopes to form the Southern regional node point.

For further information or to get involved in our Open Data work email:

More on our Open Data work