Data power for the people

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14 Oct 2010 15:24:00.897

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A series of free master classes is being held across the UK to teach the general public about the tools and techniques needed to use and analyse the increasing amount of national and local data being made available via the internet, while avoiding the pitfalls of interpreting statistics.

The programme of events, led by Horizon Digital Economy Research and the Centre for Geospatial Science at The University of Nottingham, is open to anyone with an interest in obtaining and using public information on a whole range of topics including crime, healthcare, transport, schools and census data.

The information, which could be used to reveal national trends or provide supporting evidence on local issues, would be of particular relevance to local community or campaign groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities, civil servants and professionals with a role in the planning of local services.

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It comes following the launch in recent months of and the London Data Store, which aim to open up access to data held by central government departments about the capital and the regions.

The launch of sites making government data freely available and the publication of significant geographical data by the Ordnance Survey came following a concerted open data movement, led by web developers, and a Free Our Data campaign by the national Guardian newspaper. 

Dr Hanif Rahemtulla, a research fellow in Horizon Digital Economy Research and the Centre for Geospatial Science, said: “The past few months have seen a number of high profile announcements in relation to the release of central and local government data for free.

“The portal was launched by Gordon Brown during his premiership but has been embraced by the new coalition Government as a means of opening up data, promoting transparency and re-building the general public’s trust following the damaging MP’s expenses revelations.

“There is great excitement in the developer community and many new mash-ups and apps have been produced from the released data already. Our master classes are designed for individuals who could really benefit from being able to access this data but don’t have the same technical expertise in extrapolating statistics from it.”

The one-day master classes, which are running throughout November and into early December, will use state-of-the-art computer facilities to combine theory and practical sessions with guest lectures by prominent people in the field of open data from government, academia and business.




The events are being funded by the Horizon Digital Economy Research, through the Cabinet Office, the OS (Ordnance Survey) GeoVation challenge and ESRI UK, the software leader for geographical information systems (GIS).

Each master class can accommodate 30 to 40 participants and will be suitable for individuals who have a working knowledge of web browsing and Microsoft Excel. The events are taking place at: the University of Newcastle on November 8; University College London on November 10; The University of Nottingham on November 12; the University of Aberdeen on November 17; the Royal Geographical Society in London on November 18; and the University of Southampton on December 3.

Further information about the events is available on the web at

The University of Nottingham has a broad research portfolio but has also identified and badged 13 research priority groups, in which a concentration of expertise, collaboration and resources create significant critical mass. Key research areas at Nottingham include energy, drug discovery, global food security, biomedical imaging, advanced manufacturing, integrating global society, operations in a digital world, and science, technology & society.

Through these groups, Nottingham researchers will continue to make a major impact on global challenges.




Notes to editors:

Horizon Digital Economy Research represents an initial £40million investment by Research Councils UK, The University of Nottingham and over 40 academic and industrial partners in both a Research Hub and Doctoral Training Centre within the RCUK Digital Economy programme.

The Centre for Geospatial Science(CGS) University of Nottingham is a post-graduate centre undertaking multidisciplinary research into spatial data infrastructures (SDI), geospatial intelligence, geospatial interoperability and location-based services (LBS). The centre provides a nationally unique research grouping spanning both geography and engineering as well as employing researchers with computer science, mathematics and linguistics backgrounds. The multi-disciplinary mix is key to addressing the intersection of a number of disruptive technologies (ubiquitous positioning, sensor webs and remote sensing, novel user-generated content technologies, pervasive computing, developments in semantics/ontologies and spatial search, augmented reality and mobile communications).




GeoVation, an Ordnance Survey initiative, runs challenges to encourage open collaboration in addressing communities’ needs where geography is a key enabler.  Through open innovation, data, tools and information can be combined to create new ventures which generate social and environmental value.



The University of Nottingham, described by The Times as “the nearest Britain has to a truly global university”, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 39,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.

The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:

University facts and figures at:

Story credits

 More information is available from Hanif Rahemtulla on +44 (0)115 823 1420,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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