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22 April 2021

King's Professor appointed chief scientific adviser of flagship European open government data project

Professor Elena Simperl, Professor of Computer Science, has been appointed as chief scientific advisor to a new six year European Union data project, drawing on her recent work in linked data, dataset search and human data interaction.

Long panel of data code

The new project will play a crucial role in facilitating open government data publication, use, and impact at unprecedented scales. It will chiefly include the launch of a new service:, which will build on the strengths of two related open-data initiatives, integrating the European Data Portal and European Union Open Data Portal into a single, coherent core component of the public-sector data infrastructure.

Like its predecessors, will cover three core themes:

  • Access to public data resources across Europe, published by 79 public authorities and six EU institutions that add up to more than a million open datasets
  • Support communities of practice in open data publishing and use, and contribute to the development of best practices and guidance to make data more useful for everyone
  • Propose frameworks and approaches to assess and increase the benefits of using public sector data for researchers, developers, and policy makers

To remain relevant and achieve greater impact, public data services need to ensure they provide access to data that people need – this includes diversifying the types of datasets they harvest, including newer modalities such as citizen-generated data alongside official reference datasets, but also improving access capabilities such as dataset search, ranking and presentation. The latest European Data Portal reports published by Professor Simperl and her team identified specific information needs and user journeys that public sector portals need to cater for.

Professor Simperl comments:

Our work in dataset search started as early as 2014 – as the number of openly available datasets reached a critical mass, we noticed a lack of insight into how people go about discovering the data they need and how they make sense of it. We worked with government data publishers from several countries to analyse search behaviour, and propose interaction models to design portals that are closer to the needs of their users. In the new project, we hope to expand on the scope of these studies and apply concepts such as dataset summaries and recommendations to improve the user experience.

Professor Elena Simperl

Beyond delivering improvements on dataset search algorithms and experiences, Professor Simperl and colleagues from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid will provide thought leadership to advance our understanding of the sustainability of open data publishing efforts mid- to long-term, including a series of webinars on the future of open data portals, as well as research into how to assess the value of datasets in open ecosystems.

Professor Simperl continues:

Public goods such as open government datasets can add create huge socio-economic benefits, but measuring these benefits can be in itself costly. In our research, we develop tools for data publishers to track and estimate a range of usage indicators automatically to understand how people engage with the data, and which datasets are more popular than others and why. These automated approaches use machine learning and statistical analysis to link features of the datasets and the portal where they are published to use, and can add scale to qualitative impact assessment methodologies.

Professor Elena Simperl

The European Data Portal is delivered in partnership with Capgemini Invent, INTRASOFT International, including Fraunhofer FOKUS, OMMAX, con terra, 52°North, agiledrop, Timelex, the Lisbon Council and Idean.

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Professor of Computer Science