Developing open data in the face of a global pandemic

I recently shared a blog on our plans for open data at NHS Digital. Needless to say the world has radically changed since then, with the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic becoming clear.

This has forced a change in our plans and we are now focusing solely on what we can do to support the response and recovery efforts. An emphasis that will remain until the situation is more settled.

Open data clearly has a critical role to play, and one of the first steps we took was to publish the daily COVID-19 open data set for 111 Pathways and online data, which aims to support study and planning across the health and social care system. We have also, as of last week, updated and enhanced our open data dashboard (please note this is still in beta).

As ever we are focusing on data that will help inform the public debate and support care and innovation and have been working to identify additional open datasets that may be of use; we have locked down priority areas of focus; and we are working though the necessary processes to get more accessible open data released into the public domain. I will follow up with more details as and when we release it.

The acceleration of the pandemic coincided with data scientist Michael Roberts joining our open data team. Our intent was to use his skills to improve our metadata to make it easier to find and analyse our open datasets. However, given the situation and Michael's skills, he is now rightly using his skills to focus on supporting COVID-19 analysis (and I look forward to working together again once this crisis abates!). So while we're likely to make minimal progress in improving our existing metadata in the coming months, we are working hard and at great pace to ensure that all new open datasets for COVID-19 contain high quality metadata and are indexed on Google dataset search.

With everything going on Jess Aitken, the product lead for our open data portal, is making great progress. We're aiming to create a one-stop shop for our users where they can learn about our data, how best to analyse it, and explore current projects. This idea has developed from a portal into a 'community hub' as opposed to another channel to merely search for data.

We have shared wireframes on the weekly #OpenDataSavesLives event, which has been a great forum to gather feedback and design, and we are now working with our web team to create a version we can launch.

We're excited by this, and if you have any thoughts or would like to learn more then please get in touch!

Many Thanks,

Alistair and the Open Data Team at NHS Digital