Getting Started with Data Professionals
Welcome to the City of Virginia Beach Open Data toolkit , your resource for working with and understanding data published by the City of Virginia Beach at data.vbgov.com. The Toolkit provides a wealth of guidance, how to guides, and examples for both publishers and users of data.
Data professionals are a key player in the data life cycle and part of the process of turning raw data into knowledge and wisdom. You’ll work with data to inform decision making in your department, in analyses for reports and publications, and as part of any process where you need to turn data into actionable insights. You’ll play a key role in supporting your less data-savvy colleagues to start using data on the day-to-day through your own work in data visualization and in introducing them to a wide range of readily available tools. They may also call on you for help in using data they’ve found, in discovering the right data to support their work, or in requesting new data sets. As a data professional you’ll also develop a strong understanding of the nature, limitations, and provenance of the data that your department is leveraging. You’ll also be responsible for understanding the licensing terms applied to data, and confirming that any use, commercial or otherwise, is in line with the attribution and use requirements of the data custodians.
The responsibilities of a data professional fall into four broad categories:
1. Understanding and Using Data Responsibly
You should develop a strong understanding of the nature, limitations, and origins of the data that you’re using by reading and understanding the contextual metadata provided (the information about how the data was made). The creators of City’s data will publish this through metadata on data.vbgov.com, and will often include a range of additional collateral and supporting material for their data, including:
- Data dictionaries
- Methodology statements describing how the data was constructed
- And more.
You should take all of this supporting information into account to ensure that you’re using the data appropriately and responsibly.
For geospatial data sets, it is important to note the geographic coordinate system of the geospatial data source in gis.data.vbgov.com. Since geographic coordinate systems can differ between geospatial data sets, it is important to record the native coordinate system or what datum the source data is in. This informs the user on how to display the data in a projected coordinate system or which transformation to use that will match their data.
If you find the material is lacking, or that you have further questions that aren’t answered in the material, you should contact the authors and maintainers listed for the data set on data.vbgov.com.
2. Respect Licensing and Usage Terms
As the person responsible for working directly with the data for your department, you’ll be responsible for understanding the licensing terms applied to data. You should make sure that any data your department is using, commercial or otherwise, is in line with the attribution and any usage constraints specified by the data custodians. In many cases, a data custodian will opt to use one of the licenses from the Creative Commons suite. However, you may also encounter data that has multiple licenses applied (commercial vs non-commercial), or has yet to have a licensed specified. If you find yourself uncertain about how a data set is licensed, you should contact the data set maintainer listed to explain your use case and ask them to clarify the licensing stance.
3. Keeping Data Up-to-Date
Where you are designing systems that extract and take copies of data from data.vbgov.com, it’s important to put processes (both technical and human) in place to ensure your copies of the data are kept up-to-date . How often you need to refresh the data will depend on your particular use case:
- How often the data you’re using is updated
- How much of an impact using a stale copy of the data would have on your use of it
- Whether there are any risks to your department in using stale data.
As the person working directly with the data, and the one responsible for putting update processes in place, you should make sure your department carefully considers all of these issues. Information about the intended and actual frequency of updates to data is published with all of the data on data.vbgov.com. As always, if you need further clarification we encourage you to reach out to the data set maintainers.
4. Showcasing Your Use of Data
The data life cycle doesn’t stop with your application and use of data. There’s a final key step in the life cycle, contributing your data stories back to the community of data publishers and users. One of the most effective drivers for the City to release more data openly is demonstrating the value of open data. This can be done through showcasing the innovative applications and solutions built using the City’s data as well as showing the data publishers how their data is used.