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Data.gov.uk chief admits transparency concerns

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The head of the government's website for the release of public sector data has said it is a challenge to ensure that users can understand the statistics.

Cabinet Office official Richard Stirling, who leads the team that runs Data.gov.uk, said that if he was at the Office for National Statistics he would have concerns about statistical releases and people making assumptions "that aren't quite valid".

Speaking in a podcast published on Data.gov.uk on 29 July 2010, he expressed a worry about whether "people understood the accuracy of the methodology and were able to draw sensible conclusions".

"We've tried to take some sensible steps to address that. One is through putting a short two or three paragraph description of what the dataset is on Data.gov.uk alongside the files and also a link to more detailed guidance," Stirling said.

On the subject of whether the government should move towards providing aggregated data rather than raw information that the public may not understand, he said that the coalition plans to "put more work into doing that" in some situations.

"I think what is likely to happen is datasets where there is an awful lot of interest and we can see that there is interest and there is a lot of interest in the visualisation of it, then I think we'll put more work into doing that web front end," the civil servant added.

But Stirling said he was mindful about not duplicating aggregated data that had already been carried out by the public.

"You've got to ask yourself, 'Is there any value in us replicating that and should we showcase what someone else has done?'" he added.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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