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GSS > News > You don’t know what you don’t know – the GSS Data Discovery

You don’t know what you don’t know – the GSS Data Discovery


The GSS Data Discovery project aims to research and identify the feasibility, implications, risks and benefits of developing a standard approach to data publishing across the GSS, making it easier for users to find, access and interrogate our data.

The project has been going through a ‘pre-discovery’ phase in the last few months, and we’re now moving into our ‘discovery’ phase with support from the National Statistician, the Deputy National Statistician for Data Capability, the Presentation and Dissemination Committee, the Government Digital Service and ONS. You can learn more about the principles behind a ‘discovery’ phase in the Government Digital Service’s Service Manual.

Our work is split into the following 3 elements:

  1. Produce a comprehensive list of all official data/statistics published and publishable across the GSS

We’re looking to gain a full understanding of what data and statistics are produced across the GSS. What releases are published, how often, and what data they contain are just some of the questions we’re looking to answer. If we fully understand data publishing across the GSS, it means our recommendations at the end of the discovery are meaningful and feasible. In order to get a full cross-GSS picture, we’ll be sending out questionnaires to all GSS departments in the next month, asking you about your data. Please fill it in and help us!

  1. Identify and understand all statistical and data dissemination solutions across the GSS

Across the GSS, nearly all departments have different approaches and solutions for disseminating their statistical outputs. As above, we’re seeking to understand what data production processes are out there, to help us recommend options for delivering outputs. We’ll include questions around systems and operational processes in the questionnaire mentioned above, to get a better understanding of how organisations collect, produce, store , curate and disseminate their data.

  1. Work with a small group of departments to understand the capability, limitations and opportunities for developing a transformation pipeline to 4* open data, and the APIs needed to access this data for a presentation layer

To show how we might achieve a transformation of all data to common 4* open data, we need to better understand the full range of differences across the GSS. To do this we will carry out a deep dive/case study of typical data processes in a small number of producing departments. During pre-discovery we have spent time discussing this project with a number of candidate organisations and have identified a small number to go forward into the discovery.

We selected our candidate organisations to cover the full spectrum of organisational set-up, topic, and open data capability across the GSS. The selected departments have now been notified, and are listed below:

  • DWP
  • Scottish Government
  • NHS Digital
  • UKTI
  • ORR
  • OfSTED
  • Natural England

At the end of this process, and when we’ve gathered all of the information we need, we’ll be producing a recommendations report during the first quarter of 2017. If you have any questions, would like to know more, or have useful information to share with us about your specific department, please email us at

Sam Hall, Transformation Lead, Office for National Statistics