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Establishing Publishing Priorities

Some organizations have had a tough time deciding what type of data to share. This page is designed to provide advice in determining what data to publish. This advice is based on the experiences of other organizations as they made decisions on what types of data to share. Don't worry if the quality of your organization's data is not perfect. Users often provide feedback that will result in improvements to the quality of your data.

Examine data requests

A great place to start is to look at a list of the data requests your organizations have recently received. These may consist of both formal "Right to Know Law" requests, and informal requests from external partners and residents. Proactively sharing data can lead to enhanced productivity. Staff will spend less time posting frequently requested data to the data portal once rather than repeatedly sharing it by request. The Regional Data Center's open data portal contains a data request form allowing anyone to submit an informal data request.

Look at data being shared internally

It's very likely that people in your organization are already sharing data with each other, often through highly-inefficient methods (such as e-mail attachments). One of the benefits of an open data portal is that it allows for efficient sharing of information. If this information can be shared publicly, loading it to the open data portal will break down information "silos" allowing for more efficient data sharing and access by all members of the organization.

Supporting organizational priorities

Data can support internal priorities of your organization. If a dataset can support a key business process, facilitate collaboration, or can be used to inform important decisions, it is probably a good candidate for release as open data. Also, if your organization measures its performance through a series of indicators, you may also want to publish this information for others to see.

Helping address community priorities

Your data may also have value to others in your community. Information from your organization can be essential to improving the lives of your neighbors and informing the work fo your community partners. For example, property information shared by local governments often helps community development organizations understand market conditions and target programs. If your data can support the work of others in your community, consider shharing it with them. As part of this process, it can be helpful to ask others for recommendations on data they'd like your organization to share.

Look at what other organizations share

Open data programs have been in place around the U.S. for over six years. Organizations in other communities, or counterparts in Western Pennsylvania can provide you with inspiration. If there's an organization similar to yours that is effectively using information in their work, see if there's anything you can emulate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Look at legal obligations

Some organizations are required to share information with the public. If this is the case for your organization, an open data portal provides an easy way to share information in a way that makes it easy for it to be used by others.

Update Frequency

How often to update the data is one of the considerations after deciding what data to share. Some of the factors that often go into this decision include the difficulty or time required to prepare the data update, and the degree to which the data informs important organizational or community initiatives and critical business processes. Publishers often take an incrememtal strategy in updating data, where they assess how the data is being used before determining how often to refresh the information on the data portal. However your organization decides to proceed, we encourage you to edit the "update frequency" in the metadata to let users know when to expect an update.

Organizations that are experienced in open data often develop a publishing calendar. If you'd like to stay on top of your open data publishing, a calendar can help you organize your publishing efforts. Sharing your open data calendar can also be a way to let your data users know when to expect a data update.

If feasible, the Regional Data Center will work with publishing partners to automate data updates through an "Extract, Transform, Load" (ETL) process. ETL processes are in place for several datasets on the portal, and allow for near real-time data updates. If you think one of your organizations' datasets is a good ETL candidate, please let us know.

Not all data can be open data

Please refer to our privacy-related materials to minimize the risk and harm of sharing information that may be sensitive in nature.

Data Catalogs Provide Tremendous Value in Establishing Publishing Priorities

A data catalog is a listing of data held by an organization. Knowing what data exists can help an organization more-easily develop their publishing priorities and manage their data more-effectively. GovEx is developing an excellent guide on data inventories.