Increasing data exploration through a single licence

Unlocking the value in geospatial data

Geographically referenced data or ‘geospatial’ data has become an increasingly important part of our day to day lives. On a personal level it’s been helping us plan routes, holidays, where to live and shop. Behind the scenes, it’s helping power online retailers, set insurance prices, and prioritise where roads, schools and homes are built. Britain has some of the best geospatial data in the world, and whether we realise it or not, it is changing the way we see the world and the way we live our lives.
In 2018, the UK Government set up the Geospatial Commission as an impartial expert committee within the Cabinet Office, to drive the move to use public and private sector geospatial data more productively. Research estimates that this could contribute up to £11 billion of extra value for the economy every year. The British Geological Survey (BGS), along with HM Land Registry, the Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office Agency, the UK Hydrographic Office and the Coal Authority have been identified as Partner Bodies of the Commission as we hold the UK’s most valuable location data. As partner bodies we are working with the Commission to make the most of the opportunities presented by geospatial data. Before we can do that our first challenge is to remove some of the barriers or blockers that restrict access to data.

Removing the licence barrier

One of these barriers identified by the Geospatial Commission was licensing. Anyone who has tried to access any form of protected data will appreciate that conditions placed on data can severely hamper access. Getting past the legal terms and conditions can cause real headaches.
Licensing of data is an important function for many organisations including BGS. It helps to protect our intellectual property, explains the limits of liability and ensures it can be re-used in a way that allows us to generate income which supports the ongoing maintenance of the underlying data. We can’t simply remove terms and conditions nor switch to an ‘open’ licence. We can, however, make the terms under which we supply data easier to understand and consistent with the other Partner Bodies.

Harmonised terms for data exploration

Under a Geospatial Commission funded project, licensing experts from the partner bodies, have been working to create a single Data Exploration Licence to enable anyone to take data from our organisations under harmonised terms. The Data Exploration Licence will allow anyone to freely access data while they research and develop ideas and propositions. They can even display their results and create working prototypes before having to commit a commercial arrangement.
The partner bodies anticipate rolling out the Data Exploration Licence in April but we’re keen to start talking about it now. If you’re want to know more about this or the wider project to simplify licences please contact Gerry Wildman.
A geospatial data revolution requires a licensing revolution. We’re hoping this is the first step on a journey to more closely aligning licenses across the Geospatial Commission’s Partner Bodies.