Participatory Design and Open Data Platforms for a Data Commons in Scotland: case study – waste management

Funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Collaboration with Robert Gordon University and University of Abertay.

Although there are isolated examples of excellent practice, Open Data platforms in Scotland are often characterised by a disjointed and silo approach to design and implementation. This means that existing platforms are disjointed. There is unneccessary duplication of work; many portals and platforms rely on outdated datasets, projects are under-resourced, neglected, and often misunderstood.

Additionally, existing platforms are often designed with one-level in mind for a user base: they are either oversimplified or too complicated for effective, sustained, networked use. Underlying problems here relate to data literacy and learnable platforms – lay users find data difficult to comprehend/know what to do with, and platforms difficult to navigate. Expert users find mobile apps too simplistic, and the need to drill down into datasets to perform more complex query tasks might be missed in many user-friendly solutions. There is therefore a need to acknowledge the complexity of finding, understanding and critically analysing/interpreting data, which inherently implies a learning process that begins with elegant design, as well as accurate, aesthetically-pleasing visualisation, and intuitive UI.

Furthermore, it has been observed that gamification and reputation systems saturate thinking on Open Data platform development for the public sector. Whereas one might recognise the need for transparency of governance, this should not come at a cost of impoverishment of trust, and reputation systems of reliability are not necessarily the best way to design such systems in any case. Coupled with low levels of data literacy, potential users are left in a situation not knowing what or whom to trust, and gamified reputation metrics (associated with competition and acquisitiveness) are unlikely to help.

This project has three objectives:

  1. Design and produce an OS (e.g. GitHub) prototype for a multi-level Open Data platform for waste management information and community engagement, that can be replicated across Scotland and the UK as a standardised model, using Open Data resources and leveraging Open Data initiatives in local authorities.
  2. Develop a learning methodology for participation design.
  3. Develop a (co-)design methodology for learning platforms.

Total award value £368,587.20

People (1)


Professor Greg Singh

Professor Greg Singh

Professor, Communications, Media and Culture

Outputs (1)


Technical Report

Singh G, Wilson, Hamilton & & M (2021) Building linked open data about carbon savings. Singh (Project Leader) EPSRC.