Linked Data in a Post Truth World

linked data

In his recent article on statistics in a post truth world, John Pullinger, National Statistician, highlights the importance of a

trustworthy understanding of where we are now

He argues that the reliability of data is essential for informing decisions or gaining insights into society. The key point is that we don’t want to be and don’t have to be in a ‘post-truth’ world. When different ideas and claims can circulate so quickly, it’s more important than ever to be able to identify and share trustworthy sources of information.

Swirrl is all about publishing data on the web. We use ‘Linked Data’ as our main underlying technology: some people think that Linked Data is complicated, but in essence it is simply data you can link to on the web.

So a news article or graphic can link to the data behind it; and you can connect that data to background information about how it was collected and processed. People can comment on or annotate the data, whether to add context or to its question reliability. And doing all this with open standards for machine readable data provides the basis for automated fake news filtering or fact-checking.

Many recently popular techniques for analysis of ‘big data’ — machine learning and so on — make it hard to understand and reproduce the process that connects input to output. That makes it all the more important to document and justify how data is used for important decisions. (See for example the ‘reproducible research movement’ in the academic world).

Data is never totally objective, but if you can trace where it comes from, you can understand the choices that have been made and see if you agree.

In our work with UK government organisations, we’re doing our best to enable data to be used and shared in a way that supports this.

Gregor Boyd of the Scottish Government put this well in a recent interview with us: 

Open data is a societal and economic asset. Publishing government open data on the web enables communities and individuals to hold government to account, understand more about public services in their local community, and contribute to future service design and delivery.
It’s an important aspect of our Horizon 2020 funded ‘OpenGovIntelligence’ project, where we are researching and demonstrating how statistical linked data can be used effectively in government to improve the design and delivery of public services.

About the Author

Sarah Roberts


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