In September I attended The 10th annual EU INSPIRE conference in Barcelona, with my colleague on the data programme, Jason King. INSPIRE is an EU framework Directive, incorporated into UK law since 2009, that covers the UK and the Devolved Administrations and Gibraltar. It has implementation milestones running to 2021.
INSPIRE aims to improve environmental policy making across the EU by creating a European Spatial Data Infrastructure, based on spatial data services delivered by Member States. INSPIRE requires public authorities in Member States to:
- Make spatial data easy to discover through the provision of standardised metadata
- Make spatial data easy to access through internet services
- Harmonise spatial data using a common data models and specifications
- Put in place arrangements to ease data sharing between public bodies
As Defra's INSPIRE Policy Lead, which covers the UK INSPIRE National Contact Point role, I attend EU policy committee meetings and chair the UK INSPIRE Compliance Board. Jason is Defra's INSPIRE Technical Lead which means that he is responsible for ensuring the delivery of a number of functions which include coordinating the contributions of all those in the UK with an interest in INSPIRE, monitoring the implementation and use of INSPIRE in the UK and identifying and giving advice about the priority issues to be addressed in the maintenance of the INSPIRE Directive (both at a national and European level).
At the INSPIRE conference last year I was disappointed that sessions billed as 'workshops' were in fact extended 'death by PowerPoint' presentations and I wanted to do something different. So, this year I proposed a workshop called 'I wouldn't start from here – what if we didn't have INSPIRE'. It was designed to be provocative and participative and to get participants thinking about the point of INSPIRE. We had a run-through to test the format two weeks before the conference with David Buck, James Cattell and Andrew Newman from the Programme Team, and Paul Hodgson, who runs the London Datastore for Government Office for London, and Halil Siddique who is responsible for INSPIRE publishing at the City of London. (Thanks to you all.)
My slot was first thing on the first day of the conference and being on at 0900 on the first day of the conference was a concern as I thought there might be a bottleneck at registration or that delegates might not arrive until later in the day. But after 15 mins I had to put a sign on the door saying 'Sorry, workshop full!' and I managed to negotiate extra space for the second session as there was such great demand to take part. I was helped in the sessions by Jason, Ulla Kronborg-Mazzoli of Denmark and Marc Leobet of France.
The workshop attracted the attendance of most of the EC INSPIRE Coordination Team, the INSPIRE Team from the European Environment Agency, several people from the EC Joint Research Centre and representatives from nearly all Member States.
I am pleased to say that everyone in the room took the opportunity to engage with the questions we asked and all participated very fully in the workshop. We drew out some interesting points on INSPIRE which fit well into the wider debate taking place following the publication this year of the EC 'fitness for purpose' review of INSPIRE. I have been asked to present the findings from the workshop at the next INSPIRE policy committee in December, which gives us a further opportunity to influence the EU discussion and direction of INSPIRE.
The feedback poster after we finished had some very flattering comments:
- 'The best start to an INSPIRE conference ever!',
- 'A proper workshop',
- 'Good way to make everyone participate'
- 'Good to activate the brain cells'
- 'Open atmosphere'
- 'Good that there were no PowerPoints'
Which means that the challenge now is to think up something equally interesting and engaging for next year's conference.