After some fantastic help from James Reid at EDINA we thought to put together a blog post summarising some of the conclusions we have come to over INSPIRE.
At this stage it may be worth having a look at my earlier but less informed post regarding INSPIRE to understand how my understanding of the issues has progressed.
For INSPIRE to be something that universities need to spend time and money complying with, then there are several questions needing an answer. We are not in a position to answer all of them with 100% certainty but with the help of James here are some conclusions we have come to.
1. Are universities “public bodies” or more accurately public authorities? This appears to be one area that the fog has lifted from. The INSPIRE Regulations will only apply to public authorities and James has taken the trouble to check out this area with Edinburgh and is certain that universities are public authorities for the purposes of INSPIRE. So one “Yes” to INSPIRE
2. Do universities hold and control datasets that match the data described in any of the INSPIRE data Annexes? After looking through the datasets collected for the IBIBS project I have found 11 (or about 5% of them) that match up with some of the data themes in Annex iii. The IGIBS data is probably not representative of the total extent of data held by Aberystwyth University and a data inventory of data held by some of the academic staff would be needed to quantify the amount of INSPIRE data held. So another “Yes” to INSPIRE
3. What is the public task of a university? Here is where the situation becomes less clear. There appears to be no public task defined for universities. The problem seems to stem from the fact the universities are not covered by the PSI Regulations and therefore have not needed to define a public task for themselves. Again James has made some progress on this and pointed to a publication from the National Archives that helps explain the process 0f defining a body’s public task. There has also been some slightly ambiguous advice from the Scottish Information Commissioner that includes a suggestion that it may be relevant for a university to seek legal advice over the issue. So there seems to be no clear answer to this question. A case of “we dont know yet”
4. Do those data identified in 2 above relate to the public task of the university? Again until we know the answer to 3 above we can only guess at the answer to this question. Commonsense suggests that research and teaching must be part of the task if it is ever defined. So my guess would be a “probable Yes”
5. Will there be any attempt to enforce the regulations? Again no way of knowing the answer to this and it may even involve some judicial intervention to clarify the situation. Strictly speaking if Universities are public authorities for the purposes of the INSPIRE Regulations then they are already not complying with INSPIRE as they have not established a complaints procedure to deal with questions over INSPIRE data provision as required by the Regulations. So currently a “NO” but with the uncertainty surrounding public task it could be a complicated or impossible job to enforce this regulation at present. So this will have to be a wait and see area.