From Principles to Practice: a consultation paper on joined-up data standards

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From Principles to Practice: a consultation paper on joined-up data standards

     Data has immense potential to help drive poverty eradication and international development, but it remains incredibly difficult to join up data on resources, people and re ...

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Data has immense potential to help drive poverty eradication and international development, but it remains incredibly difficult to join up data on resources, people and results because it is published in different formats and to different standards. Overcoming this challenge requires both technical solutions and political will. The challenge facing governments, international institutions, civil society, academics and the private sector alike is how to make sense of the vast quantities of data now being generated in order to create a coherent, holistic picture.

The aims of the Joined-up Data Standards project are to: explore the problems caused by incompatible data in international development; work with partners to find common solutions to these problems; and to build international consensus that all data should be joined up. We have to date produced four discussion papers that cumulatively explore: the way in which global institutions define and classify geographic, sectoral and results data; the overlaps that occur between competing standards; and the policy landscape that governs international data standard setting.

This paper aims to start a discussion on what practical solutions to joining up data standards could look like.

We have reached the following preliminary conclusions.

  1. 1
    The policy environment is conducive to joining up data
    Global and regional institutions are recognising the value of joined-up data and interoperability is now an internationally accepted principle. Official statistics bodies increasingly recognise the importance of embracing all producers and users of data as partners in their work.
  2. 2
    Turning new principles into practice is a challenge
    While international commitments on interoperability are now a given, standard-setting work still takes place in highly specialised forums and data silos persist, limiting the comparability of data.
  3. 3
    Solutions are demonstrably achievable
    Technologies are allowing machines to speak more easily to each other, to understand different languages and to translate between them.

We suggest three preliminary recommendations that form the starting point of our consultation.

  1. 1
    New standards must be joined up
    There is no longer any reason why new standards that duplicate existing standards should be developed. All standard-setting bodies must commit to making new standards and their components fully compatible with existing standards and build interoperability into their architecture from the outset.
  2. 2
     We need joined-up leadership
    We need united and integrated leadership, structures and mechanisms to drive the Data Revolution and the Transformative Agenda for Official Statistics forward at speeds commensurate with both the aspirations and urgency of current global ambitions.
  3. 3
    Translation services are urgently needed
    In the immediate future, the many disparate standards that relate to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goals, targets and indicators need to be mapped and compared to enable data from different standards to be ‘cross-walked’ through a translating machine. This is the responsibility of all standard-setting bodies.
  4.  

We are inviting responses to a number of questions outlined below and will also be holding a series of events to consult on the paper in the coming months.

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Beata is the Data Scientist working on the technical side of Joined-up Data Standards from Development Initiatives’ Bristol office. Beata’s work focuses on mapping and linking data standards. She also develops and maintains the thesaurus. Beata finished her PhD in metabolic modelling of microbial systems at the University of Bath in 2015. She holds a MSc in Bioinformatics from Imperial College London and a BSc in Biotechnology from Cardiff University.

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