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Report highlights need to improve geospatial data


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The UK public sector has made progress but needs to do more in improving its geospatial data, according to an assessment by the Geospatial Commission.

This is prompting the organisation to work with public sector holders on a code of practice for the implementation of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable) principles.

It has published a report, How FAIR are the UK’s national geospatial data assets? focused on the adoption of the principles, which are seen as crucial to realising the full value of the data.

It says there are many good examples of effective use of geospatial data in the UK, but the lack of a shared supply framework has led to inconsistencies and challenges, and if these persist the value will degrade.

A significant proportion of the data is held by the commission’s six partner bodies – the British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, UK Hydrographic Office, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and the Valuation Office Agency – each of which routinely makes improvements and is committed to the adoption of FAIR principles.

But the report says the pace of technological change is raising challenges and opportunities and further improvements are needed.

Variations and shortcomings

The assessment found that in the public sector there are variations in the adoption of FAIR with improvements not always integrated in a way that provides the best overall value for the UK. It often involves a focus on organisational rather than national priorities and there are differences in cultures and capabilities.

In addition, UK organisations are not always adopting international standards and approaches, which can lead to a patchwork of preferences and strategies.

It all creates a need for a consistent approach to implementing FAIR, which would help to align organisational and national needs along with industry demand.

As a next step, the Geospatial Commission is planning to work with holders and users of the data to develop a code of practice to support an integrated approach to adopting the principles.

It will be written as an operational practice that can be used by organisations to cover items such as appraising the need for data, benchmarking and assessing improvements, specifying approaches to making it FAIR, and approaches to interventions and investments.

Much to celebrate

Kru Desai, the independent commissioner of the Geospatial Commission, said: “The UK has some of the best geospatial data in the world, and we have found much to celebrate. But we have not shied away from calling out where improvement is needed to bring the greatest overall benefit for the UK.

“The FAIR principles need to be applied more consistently, and we need a shift in culture and capabilities if the UK is to unlock the power of location.”

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