Open Data Policy Guidelines » Guideline 5

Specify methods of determining the prioritization of data release

Open data policies should ideally enable the online release of all public government information, but in practice the release of data can be a staggered process. This can come as a result of insufficient funding, lack of dedicated staff, or other reasons. Because of these and other challenges governments face when opening data, it's important they're clear communicating their strategy to determine the priority-order of data release.

A variety of factors contribute to the determination of data set prioritization. Because of the traditional relevance of ethics concerns to open government policy, data which provides oversight of high-frequency areas for governmental ethics violations serves the specific goal of achieving accountable government. Publishing data used in the process of creating public laws or rules, data related to specific legislative or executive policy initiatives, or data which is created incidental to a new policy or regulation serves the goals of civic engagement and transparency. The goal of satisfying public demand can be achieved both through a review of the existing volume of requests for government data and through a new solicitation of public comment. Although direct public participation is important, it should not serve as the sole method of data set prioritization, because this mode of participation can inadvertently serve to reinforce the specific preferences of people already comfortable engaging government. Finally, given practical concerns, the cost of releasing individual data sets will likely be an aspect in determining priority for release. While cost may be an important factor in determining the priority of data release, it should be fairly balanced against other prioritization methods in order to produce a truly useful collection of public data.

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Here are examples of the language for this guideline as included in policies on this site. Please note that the selections of text below are imperfect, and you should check out their source policies to read them in context.