All posts by Sian Thomas

Open Data Camp – Inclusivity and feeling able to make your best contribution

One of my most surreal experiences was meeting the Open Data Camp co-organisers in a Winchester pub before the very first Open Data Camp. Initially Sasha, Mark and James, eventually Lucy and Jamie and others. These are people that I engaged with in a digital world, had never met, but had organised an unconference with. At the weekend is the first Open Data Camp I will miss. I am sad not to be going to Aberdeen, but in order to still be part of it, this week I engaged with Pauline, Elspeth and Edafe to try and ensure that the event at the weekend and future Open Data Camps are inclusive and welcoming for all.

All of the organisers (and the attendees) are amazing people. But for me, it took a fair bit of courage to engage that first time. And as an inclusive community we want to do what we can to smooth the process and enable participants to attend, contribute to and enjoy the event. Over the years we have made good progress on gender diversity (certainly in the organising team). In Belfast, ladies (that fab bunch I am honoured to call friends as well as co-organisers and fellow gin fans) outnumbered the men – there are not many data events where that happens in my experience. There was quite a good gender balance of attendees too, although other aspects of diversity still need more work. I know that it is too late now to do much about encouraging new attendees in Aberdeen, we did put our heads together in relation to concrete actions to make it as inclusive as possible. This is supported by and aligned with other work in the space – including the work of Open Heroines.

Group of Campmakers at Open Data Camp 5. Links to the image in Giuseppe Sollazzo's album on Flickr
Campmakers at Open Data Camp 5

So, we will be looking at attendance over the two days. A whole range of facets to look at gaps – those that are obvious but also those less so. Previously we have arranged so that booking for day one is separate for day two. We will look for evidence around whether this has an impact. We also have a Code of Conduct – if at any time you feel uncomfortable please look for an organiser or volunteer (easily identified by lovely new hi viz!) and they will help. There will be at least one in every session.

In Aberdeen we will be doing further monitoring – looking for patterns to help us identify whether there is anything further we can do to support people to get the most from the event. As part of the weekend we do feedback at the end of the day. From an inclusion perspective this is not always the best. So we plan to have a parking lot for post-its with feedback on diversity and inclusion for organisers throughout the event. If you have any ideas, something worked or something didn’t please tell us when it occurs to you – it is not necessary to wait for the formal feedback session. If you don’t want to add your name, that is fine too.

And finally, if you would like to help us with the diversity and inclusion aspects of future events do get in touch. We want to learn from your experiences – at open data camp and other events. The Open Data community is one of the most welcoming I have encountered. If there is more we can do to improve diversity and inclusion in the community it is well worth the effort. And if you are in Aberdeen at the weekend – have a ball – I will be watching from twitter @drsiant!

Photo credit

Campmakers at Open Data Camp 5, thanks to Giuseppe Sollazzo

Food Standards Agency supporting Open Data Camp again!

The Food Standards Agency is delighted to be sponsoring Open Data Camp 5 in Belfast.  Particularly as it is home to some of our staff and one of our offices.  And in the Open Data world of food, Northern Ireland is pretty special – it is the second country to mandate display of FHRS ratings for food premises.  So, if you are joining us in Belfast be sure to look out for eateries with a high score!

Of course, the catering provider for the event has an FHRS of 5!  Wouldn’t want anything other than ‘Good’ for our attendees.

Finally, FSA staff attending look forward to seeing many of you in Belfast.  We are really looking forward to an Open Data focussed weekend with like-minded people.  Look out for us throughout the event.  Siân, John and Naomi.

Food Standards Agency supports us again!

By Dr Sian Thomas, Head of Information Management, Food Standards Agency

The Food Standards Agency is delighted to be a silver sponsor of Open Data Camp 4 in Cardiff – 25-26th February 2017.  Our involvement with Open Data Camp started at the first camp in Winchester, and following our re-affirmation of our Open Data commitment in January 2016 we were pleased to sponsor the Bristol Camp last May.

The FSA has an office in Cardiff, so I thought it might be interesting to pull out a couple of food facts which can be found in our open data.  Food and You – the Agency’s consumer survey which has been carried out in 2010, 2012 and 2014 (still waiting for 2016 results) showed that Women in Wales aged between 40 and 45 were the demographic group most likely to comply with recommended food safety practices. With Welsh roots myself, in my house we call this the ‘Mam effect’.  Comparisons across countries from this survey showed significant differences across a number of areas.

Wales also was the first country to make displaying a Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme (FHRS) Score mandatory.  Of course, FHRS is our most well used dataset and we are in the process of changing the licensing arrangements for this data to Open Government License.

We look forward to engaging in food and open data discussions at camp.  If you have an interest in food open data too, do seek us out or think about jointly pitching a session.  And if you are unable to attend – watch out for @foodgov tweeters on the #ODcamp hashtag.

An exciting few weeks at the Food Standards Agency

It has been an exciting few weeks at the Food Standards Agency:

Open by default

On 28th January our board set us on an open by default path

Future of food regulation

The following week there was a public event about the future of food regulation (see,  and we published our principles tabs/?ctid=824.

Open Data Camp

We are pleased to be supporting Open Data Camp 3 in May.

Open Data Camp 3 teaser

Purpose of this blog

A call for help linking these three distinct themes. There could be a key role for Open Data in the future of food regulation. There are many facets of this and we are keen to get people to help us develop some ideas.

As is customary, I will be at (and again involved with organising) Open Data Camp – but this time I am reaching out to the community to do some thinking before the event.

Share some ideas: from crowdsourcing to data standards – we need your help to explore the possibilities. After all, we all have to eat at least a few times every day.