Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More on opening access to public sector info in the UK

Nick Holmes, Free access is not open access, Binary Law, October 11, 2007.

I highlight again a single point from para 87 of the Power of Information review from my acronymically-entitled previous post PSI4U:

It is relatively easy to suggest changes that would give citizens and organisations better access to information held by government. These include … republishing information in open standards or as web services.

Let’s look at some examples central to the legal profession:

  • The publication of the Statute Law Database as a free access, public resource was a huge step forward and did represent a “sea change” in the government’s attitude, but free access to its web views does not open up the data. You cannot easily extract, re-use or repurpose the data as you are at the mercy of its formatting and a URI scheme that relies on its internal document IDs; and there are no RSS feeds of new legislation....

These are all materials which there is no argument we should be able to use and re-use freely, but for the sake of a few days’ programming time, we are denied the keys to open access which would unlock the data’s potential....

We do have, in many cases, free access to the data in that we can, via the appropriate website, query the fundholders’ data for the information we need, but it is served up in small chunks, and if we want to do anything with a meaningful set of data, we are reduced to scraping the websites. That’s fair or foul depending your conscience rather than the niceties of copyright law.

If you’ve any interest in leveraging public sector information, then do publicise (via a link in your blogroll or wherever) and contribute to the PSI Re-use Request Forum that OPSI have set up.