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A data manifesto to boost infrastructure safety

A new manifesto and report published by the Open Data Institute and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation encourages sharing of engineering data among government and private organizations to boost the safety of built infrastructure.

Data sharing for infrastructure safety
Data sharing can increase safety by monitoring and improving working conditions across engineering, construction and manufacturing supply chains

While we lay great emphasis on building high quality infrastructure that is both smart and resilient, and can stand the test of time, we do not pay adequate importance to the existing buildings, roads, ports, power stations and bridges that are essential to our day-to-day needs. The safety of built infrastructure is in a way more important, as innumerable lives around the world directly depend on it. To boost the safety of  existing infrastructure, a new manifesto and report, aimed at the engineering sector, has been launched. The report encourages organisations and companies to publish, use and share data.

Published by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the manifesto for sharing engineering data has been endorsed by leading engineering firms like Mott MacDonald and Tideway, as well as the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Health and Safety Executive. The document urges more and more companies to join the movement here, and identifies a set of principles and recommendations to help improve safety by increasing access to data and driving innovation in the engineering sector.

“Around the world, we are facing a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. A safer, sustainable and more resilient future will require us to innovate and adapt ways in which we engineer and maintain our infrastructure, energy and transport networks. Data has a fundamental role to play in addressing these challenges. But to maximise value from data, we need to increase access in ways that build trust, conform to legal and ethical frameworks and deliver value for the public good. This report and manifesto is an essential first step in achieving these goals,” says Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Open Data Institute.

Basic recommendations

The manifesto calls for government and private sectors to share and open datasets to increase access to data that will drive safety innovation and support research. It further encourages professional bodies and individual organisations to develop and promote codes of practice that will guide the ethical use of data and ensure that the choices made about what data is collected and how it is used are not unjust, discriminatory or deceptive. The document recommends that funders should invest in programmes that enable collaboration across the private sector, startups and researchers to solve specific challenges through better use of data.

The manifesto is part of the new Insight report on sharing engineering data, which identifies the current barriers to information sharing about our built environment, such as lack of proper frameworks and standards and uncertainty around the value of sharing data. The report shows that increasing access to data across the engineering sector has the potential to create a range of additional benefits both for the society and individual businesses.

Benefits of sharing

Leigh Dodds, Engineering for the Public Good Project Lead and Director of Advisory at the Open Data Institute, says, “As new technologies like autonomous vehicles are designed and deployed, it is important that the necessary data is available to provide evidence of safety, enable innovation and inform public policy. The recommendations set out in the report and the manifesto ensure that all types of organizations are investing in maximising the value of data available to use, which in turn creates an open, trustworthy data ecosystem.”

Among other things, data sharing can increase safety by monitoring and improving working conditions across engineering, construction and manufacturing supply chains. It can also help in optimizing and improving the design, delivery and maintenance of infrastructure assets. Availability of accurate data to multiple stakeholders can enhance productivity in construction and engineering through better collaboration across the supply chain and asset life-cycle. It can further enable innovation by including more communities and organizations in the development of new technologies and services.

Initial incentive

The Open Data Institute and Lloyd’s Register Foundation have launched a new stimulus fund to support projects that will help increase access to data and drive innovation in the engineering sector with an emphasis on improving safety. The initial fund will provide £150,000 for up to six projects that will help to deliver the manifesto’s recommendations by exploring innovative ways to improve safety, increasing access to data by supporting the publication of open data or sharing of data, encouraging collaboration across organisations and demonstrating the value of open approaches.

Applications for the fund will open by the end of October 2019 and grants are expected to be awarded by the end of this year. These projects will run for six months from January to June 2020. “It is encouraging to see so many organisations, regulators and industry bodies supporting this new manifesto for sharing engineering data. Current UK data shows that safety figures have plateaued and we need to find new ways to protect our built infrastructure. Improving access to data about our built environment creates opportunities for efficiencies, innovation and ultimately improves safety,” says Richard Clegg, Chief Executive at Lloyd’s Register Foundation. 

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