Open data tips

Some tips for creating open data in a way that is helpful. The aim is to make your open data machine-readable. These suggestions are from people who end up trying to use open data.

Tabular data

See Data Organization in Spreadsheets by Browman & Woo 2017 for more.


Dates can be ordered differently in different parts of the world. Sometimes people use two digits for the year. This can make it confusing to know what the date is. For example, what is 12.07.16? It could be 12th July 2016, 7th December 2016, or even 2012 July 16th. There is no way to know for sure. Provide dates using an international standard such as ISO8601. That allows just dates or dates/times to be provided complete with time zones and avoids confusion over American/Rest-of-the-world date formats. ISO8601 also allows dates to be chronologically sorted very easily. Here are some examples:

Use of ISO8601 is also recommended by the Government Digital Service.

GIS data


Metadata is the data that describes your data. Typically this includes information that the data user will want to know, but which doesn’t form part of the actual dataset.

Anonymisation and data privacy

Further reading