Introduction to Data Standards and Open Data in Scottish Government

July 13, 2021 by No Comments | Category CivTech, Data, Digital Scotland, Digital Strategy

Hi, my name is Shona Nicol and I work in the Scottish Government’s, Digital Directorate and head up a team that covers technical data policy, where I lead on data standards. Along with Martin Macfie, who leads the team on Open Data, we wanted to start a series of blogs on the use of data standards and open data in the public sector.

“We want a world where data works for everyone”. Jeni Tennison, Vice President and Chief Strategy Advisor, Open Data Institute.

We both believe that unlocking the potential of Scotland’s public sector data is vital if Scotland’s is to succeed in its economic, social, and environmental ambitions. The widespread adoption of data standards and open data – supporting the creation and management of high-quality data, enabling public sector data to be reused – is a vital step in creating the necessary data environment for this success.

One of the principles forming the backbone of Scotland’s Digital strategy, is that we are a data driven nation and we value the transformational role that data can play in increasing transparency, empowering communities, transforming products and services, fuelling innovation, and improving outcomes. The strategy also commits us to is making more public sector data open; adopting common digital and data standards; making public sector data easier to find, understand and reuse; and the development of a Data Transformation Framework to enable organisations to understand their data maturity & improve data reuse. There will be more on all of these themes over the next few blogs so please stay tuned, but just to give you a flavour of the type of work our teams are working on we’ve set out the main work below:

What we’re working on now:

• Creation of a Community of Practice on Data Standards & Open Data – more on this when the site goes live

• Development of a Public sector data catalogue – Working alongside the Data and Intelligence Network & NatureScot to pilot a technological solution. Details can be found on the CivTech website and the blog I wrote about it is here

• Collaborating with Scottish Cities Alliance, Local Government Digital Office & The Improvement Service on data standards and data maturity. And more broadly, collaborating across the public sector to encourage, advise and support the increased publication high value open data (such as transport data and financial data) which can be targeted to address real world issues

• Development of a Data Transformation Framework – setting out what ‘good data’ looks like and the process by which organisations can improve. This includes work on data maturity assessments, data personas and data literacy – more on these in a future blogs

• Ongoing prioritisation of publication of high value open datasets on

• Undertaking a TrueIntent User Research survey of our Official Statistics Open data publishing platform, to better understand user journey and satisfaction. This will be running for the next few months and is designed to help us better understand the purpose of the site, and whether users are completing tasks successfully on the site. This will help us shape next steps for improvement, as we believe that our platform caters for a very wide range of user needs

Where we’re going next:

• Adoption of a framework for Data Standards based on FAIR (FAIR Principles).

• Understanding the current standards bodies landscapes and working with the UK Data Standards authority and work they are doing on quality and standards Data Standards Authority

• Co-produce the next Open Government Action Plan for Scotland in conjunction with civil society. This is likely to have a commitment on the role of Ethical Use of Data, Information and Digital Technology to increase transparency, accountability and participation

If you’d like to know more about any of these projects, or share details of projects you’re involved in then please get in touch at and

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