The Edinburgh Open Data community started the year in fine style with a meet-up hosted by the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge. The turn-out was excellent, with a wide range of participants. As usual, we had a number of lightening talks.

The meet-up started with a welcome from Darryl Mead, Deputy National Librarian, who pointed out that openness was at the core of the NLS mission, and that work was underway to make information about the holdings easily accessible.

Amy Guy reported on her visit to the 1st International Open Data Dialog in Berlin, 5-6 December 2012. She was impressed by how successful the event was in demonstrating that Open Data is of practical value right now, rather than in some indeterminate future. Amy has a detailed blog post about the event.

Freda O’Byrne emphasised that small voluntary organisations (such as Play-Base,  Duddingston Field Group, and Scatterbox Films) can be hugely helped by access to the right kind of data, particularly when they need to write a case for further funding or when they are trying to network with other relevant organisations.

Recent developments in the approach to Open Data by the Scottish Government were described by Ben Plouviez (Head of Knowledge Information and Records Management). Some of the main challenges stem from cultural attitudes to data within the civil service; the cost of publishing open data on a sustainable basis; and the development of technical infrastructure such as URI sets. Areas where we can expect to see progress include increased sharing of data between different public institutions within Scotland; publishing dynamic datasets rather than isolated snapshots; and a better appreciation of the value of data analytics by managers within the Scottish public sector.

Expanding on Darryl’s introduction, Gill Hamilton described recent initiatives in Openness at NLS, including plans to appoint a Wikipedian in Residence, and the release of metadata for digital resources as Linked Open Data. Another issue under debate is whether it would be possible for NLS to provide open access to the digital resources themselves with loss of revenue.

Andy Wightman described current obstacles to answering the question “Who owns Scotland?“, highlighting the fact that members of the public are currently unable to view access information about land registration held by the Registers of Scotland without paying a fee. He had argued (unsuccessfully) during the course of the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, that access should be free (fee income accounts for only 5.3% of the Register’s revenue.) The wider debate about land taxation and land reform is hampered by the inadequate public availability of data on landownership.

It seemed as though lots of new connections were being made during the networking parts of the event, and some new collaborations were being hatched, possibly including a pilot project involving Scotland’s iconic Forth Rail Bridge.

Elevation and Plan drawing of the Forth Bridge, published within the Westhofen article on the construction of the Forth Bridge in Engineering, 1890, ©RCAHMS

Elevation and Plan drawing of the Forth Bridge, 1890, ©RCAHMS

The level of activity around Open Data in Scotland is definitely on the rise. A lot of events and initiatives are being planned, including the following:

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