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Data Practitioners are invisible – until something goes wrong

Do you feel like sometimes you're working in a vacuum; no one really understands the data publishing problems you have and no-one can help?  Well, welcome to the Data practitioners' group – they can solve them all!

Pylons and telegraph poles
Data practitioners and the data infrastructure they support can often seem invisible – until something goes wrong. Image: CC-BY-SA Andrew Tryon

Well maybe not all, but the ones relating to data publication definitely. This is more of a self-help group than the driving force in data publication. But it's no less important for being that.

The Data practitioners are a broad fellowship; data publishers and producers from across government attend. The group was brought together by the Prime Minister's Letter of 2010 to make that Government the most transparent. The group continues to meet, despite weathering our fair share of highs and lows as part of the wider government open data agenda.

The question has always been why are will still meeting regularly? The answer for me falls into a number of identifiable and linked areas:

  • We all publish similar data – this drives a cohesive and collective attitude, which might otherwise not be so prominent. We have our own Google group to stir up the waters if we feel things are not quite right.
  • We all come to data publication from different angles – this means we can all learn for each other and share tips, tools and intelligence.
  • Data practitioners is recognised as a great self-help group – getting issues off your chest and finding others feel the same way has a cathartic effect, both individually and collectively.

This may not be an inspirational list,  but when the focus is on delivery we often leave out  the needs of the people that deliver these requirements.  Within our respective departments, we often get very little appreciation or visibility for our work. This is until something goes horribly wrong. This group is one mechanism to deal with and redress that balance. We share, learn and develop ourselves for the better. This can only benefit ourselves, our Departments and government as a whole.

It’s win-win in my opinion, and maybe even a model for much wider government collaboration on a number of issues?

To join the Data Practitioners' group, you can email

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