Geospatial Commission Minister Dowden With Heidi Mottra CEO Of Northumbrian Water
Minister Oliver Dowden with Heidi Mottram of Northumbrian Water in one of the sorts of tunnel to be mapped

Geospatial Commission introduces licence for data exploration

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Nicholas Fearn

The UK’s official Geospatial Commission has created a specialist licence to simplify location-based data work while also unveiling plans for a digital map of the country’s underground pipes and cables.

With the Data Exploration Licence, anyone can freely access and use data from the British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and the UK Hydrographic Office for research, development and innovation projects.

GC said the licence allows researchers to:

  • Access information held by the five partner bodies via one licence
  • Use data on consistent, harmonised terms
  • Access data at no cost
  • Share some of the results of their work with others

This measure comes after the commission made £5m available to the partner bodies last year to support a range of data foundation projects.

Nigel Clifford, deputy chair of the Geospatial Commission, said: “This is strong and collaborative progress against the commission’s mission of maximising the value of geospatial data for the UK.

“This makes geospatial data accessible for researchers in one place for the first time using a simplified licence.

“This is one of four initial data improvement projects taken forward by the Geospatial Commission in partnership with the partner bodies to improve the UK’s geospatial data infrastructure.”

Formed in April 2018 by the UK Government, GC is an independent and expert committee aimed at unlocking the economic opportunities offered by geospatial data and reinforcing the UK’s geospatial expertise on the global stage.

To date, the programme has launched four programmes:

  • Data discoverability, catalogues of all the datasets they hold
  • Licensing, work to simplify data licensing across the partner bodies
  • Linked identifiers, looking at how to integrate different datasets across the partner bodies
  • Enhancing the core dataset, sharing information and approaches on using third-party data

Prof John Ludden, CEO of the British Geological Survey, added: “BGS is always looking for ways to get its data used in new and novel ways. This new licence gives innovators a safe space to see what’s possible with data without having to worry about financial commitments or complicated restrictions on how the data should be used.”

Meanwhile, the commission has also announced plans to create a digital map of underground pipes and cables to “help save lives and reduce the disruption caused when they are struck by mistake”.

According to government estimates, accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables costs £1.2bn annually.

In a bid to prevent these accidents, GC said it wants to “bring together the existing data on underground pipes and cables to create an Underground Assets Register”.

While the project is still in the early stages, it has kicked off with £3.9m of pilot projects across London and the North East “to test feasibility”.

Minister for implementation, Oliver Dowden, said: “When workers strike pipes and cables, it risks lives, costs money and causes havoc for residents and road-users.

“Our investment in this cutting-edge underground map is just one way that the government is working smarter, so that we really make a difference to people’s everyday lives.”

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