MSc thesis topics

The scope of the open data ecosystem, and especially the incorporation and consideration of the plethora of non-government data in the ecosystem, will have an impact on the governance of the ecosystem. Where the governance of current open government data systems mainly is in hands of government, the governance of the open data ecosystem will require governance structures in which public, commercial and citizens’ interests are equally represented. Global, national and local public-private partnership constructs will be established to determine new rights, roles and responsibilities among the various actors and organizations involved. Who should be responsible for which part of the infrastructure? Who collects which data, provides which services, manages access mechanisms, and who decides on what? And what governance instruments can be used to steer the behavior of individual public and especially non-public actors, and the ecosystem as a whole.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen

The open SDI: the user

The users in first and second generation SDIs are well known and their involvement in the SDI is straightforward. In the first generation SDI, users are typically members of the data providing organisation, well known and embedded in the organisation. In the second generation SDI, users are primarily in government with some known users in the private sector. Also these users are involved in the SDI development through the traditional networks of business associations and national SDI platforms. The third generation SDI builds on the involvement of new non traditional users, among others. However, THE third generation SDI user does not exist: there is a wide variety of user types with different needs, and often the use is unknown to the public data provider. Provided this diversity and uncertainty, one may argue that the user cannot be involved in the third generation decision making processes while on the other hand user involvement is critical for the SDI success. This research will investigate the user needs in the third generation SDI and propose ways to incorporate user involvement in the governance of the third generation SDI.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Open SDI: user motivations

Until now, users appear to be most frequently mentioned, but in fact not seriously involved in SDI development. The future of Spatial Data Infrastructures may be in Open SDIs consisting of open spatial data and open participation of all. This implies a dominant role for users in the SDI decision making processes. This research aims at identifying potential user groups to be involved in the open SDI and developing strategies to include these user groups in the decision making processes. It will study user motivations and incentivizing users in the context of a specific SDI (e.g., Netherlands, Ireland, Italy etc).

Contact: Frederika Welle Donker


Role of government in SDI development: How to control the SDI development?!

The third generation SDI builds on both public, private and volunteered data. The inclusion of the latter in the NSDI is increasing. For example, the Dutch National Mapping Agency cooperates with OSM and incorporates OSM maps in the key register topography. Ultimately, we may move to a situation where government solely relies on the activities and data of volunteers. This may raise questions about the ownership of the data and the control over the content of the data. Through a comparative analysis with other co-creation initiatives, this research aims at answering the research question should and if so how may government maintain control over SDI framework data.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Privacy in the open data ecosystem

In a true open data ecosystem, there is an overwhelming number of datasets available. This may have consequences for the identifiability of the data, because if the so-called mosaic-effect: combining several datasets that each on their own does not contain personal data may identify a single person. A clear boundary between personal and non-personal would stimulate open data use, but this appears in many jurisdictions to depend on the specific circumstances of the case. How to balance the utility of a dataset and the protection of personal data remains uncertain. Do we need AI to instantly establish a balancing score of utility versus identifiability to be ‘safe’, do we need to reconsider the concept of personal data?  Will jurisdictions that lack legislation on personal data-processing benefit by developing products building on open data about people and move towards a data dictatorship? These are only a few of the questions that should be subject to further study.

Intellectual property & data ownership in the open data ecosystem

The introduction of a universal right to access and reuse data is a way to arrive at a sustainable open data ecosystem. This implies we have to rethink legal concepts around intellectual property and data ownership. The actual concept of intellectual property was developed in the age of the printed word. At the moment information became shaped as digital data, automatically processed by machines, and can be reproduced easy and without any cost, it becomes less evident to speak about an ‘original’. Engagement in studies on the development of open data in the current environment of mass production of data, especially taking into account the case of machine-generated data and the rights created over them, might develop alternative concepts, like the universal right to access and re-use, that will benefit all.

Assessing open data

Open data is expected to bring a significant amount of extra economic value to our information economies. It also aims at stimulating transparency in government decision making. For a wide variety of reasons open data has not yet provided the promised benefits. This research will develop an assessment framework for open data and test the framework in several countries. This should support decision makers to stimulate open data and to bring the open data dream into reality.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Governance of open spatial data

Public administrations in Europe and worldwide are aware of the need to promote, facilitate and coordinate the sharing of spatial data and have been working on the development of open spatial data infrastructures for many years. Most countries and public administrations however approach and implement their – open – SDI in their own unique way. This especially applies to the governance instruments being utilized for managing the relationships and dependencies between all involved actors, units and organizations. Due to the lack of research on the governance of open spatial data infrastructures, it still remains difficult to understand the impact of implemented governance instruments and governance models on the performance of the infrastructure. As a result, practitioners and policy makers remain uninformed and uncertain about the success and appropriateness of their governance model, and of their open spatial data infrastructure in general. The central research questions this research aims to answer are: 1) which governance instruments are adopted for governing open spatial data infrastructures in Europe and 2) what is the impact of different governance instruments and models on the performance of open spatial data policies?

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


(open) spatial data-driven policy making through the Amsterdam case study

The purpose would be to understand if and how policy decisions are actually based on spatial data produced and collected by public institutions (for example in the fields of transport; maintenance of roads – if they collect data on the number of vehicles/bicycles; housing; planning; and more based on the data that Amsterdam collects).

Contact: Enzo Falco


Governance of public private partnerships for spatial data sharing

Increasingly data is being shared between public and private sectors to carry out specific public tasks. Examples are the NDW for mobility data, smart cities, and the health care sector. This research aims at exploring data sharing models to carry out these tasks efficiently and effectively.

Contact: Frederika Welle Donker


Effective governance of open spatial data at local levels

This project will investigate the governance and performance of open spatial data policies at organizational (or micro) level, as well as the link between the national and organizational policies (or between macro and micro). Many of the most valuable spatial data sets are produced, managed and maintained at the local level. In recent years, several municipalities have implemented their own open data agenda, often prior to the development and implementation of a national open data agenda. The challenge of governing open spatial data at municipal level is twofold: municipalities not only have to decide on how to govern their own relationships with other stakeholders in the open data domain, but also need to think about their involvement in, contribution to, and adoption of national open data initiatives. In this project a comparative case study design will be implemented to investigate the governance and performance of open spatial data policies at local levels in a country of your choice.

Contact: Frederika Welle Donker


Bridging the information gap between public and private sector

From the beginning of the 21th century, the rise of the digital era, we have witnessed the role of government data in the data society to smoothly diminish towards a more marginal one. The majority of the annually newly created data is in the private (i.e. commercial) domain. In practice, the majority of such non-government data, either collected or controlled by businesses, researchers or citizens, are not readily accessible to all. It may be worrying when (a single or limited number of) parties have data at their disposal which are highly relevant for the execution of a (public) task, but not shared with others, for example, with government. The information position of government (in this example) may be limited if they rely on two-year old data while real-time data are available outside government. Government may then not only have to rely on the knowledge of the parties outside government, but also on the data of these parties. The European Commission is exploring ways to address this gap by extending the scope of the Directive on the re-use of public sector information to high value datasets in the public interest. This research will explore means for the public sector to access, and use private sector data: what means are available and utilised and should we create new instruments to arrive at a true open SDI?

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


User friendly geoportals

Since the beginning of the 1990s we have been developing geoportals. Until now none of these portals appear to be user friendly. In addition to complex user interfaces, also the ever increasing amount of data available poses serious challenges to the user friendliness of these portals. Provided the wide variety of (potential) users, this research aims at developing a geoportal user friendliness assessment framework  and apply the framework to existing geoportals (and/ or open data portals) around the world.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Role of spatial data in a library of materials (material cadaster)

As one way of facilitating circular business models, governments and private parties are exploring ways to register materials of which a building is made. Such a  material cadaster (madaster) should provide insight in the materials used, their life span, the provider of the material and its owner (more information: madaster.com). It should result in efficient building processes, asset management, and more reused material. In this project, we will explore the role of spatial data in the madaster and the requirements for the design of a spatially enabled madaster. Which spatial data should be incorporated, what are the spatial requirements the data should adhere too, at what level of spatial detail (at building or brick level?) can the materials be registered, and how to exchange the spatial data effectively?

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Speaking the language of the user

Users in the SDI may very well be people that do not speak “spatial”. In this research we will develop a layman’s dictionary to translate the spatial data domain jargon into language that is understood by the layman: How to develop a layman’s dictionary/ vocabulary to make spatial data domain jargon accessible for non-spatial data specialists.

Open spatial data and trust in government

One of the drivers of open (spatial) data is increasing the transparency of government operations and processes. However, research shows that transparency of government data may also result in the identification of errors in the data and processes and as a consequence decreasing trust in government. This research will study the impact of open spatial data and open algorithms on the trust of governments providing open spatial data/ models.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Anonymizing open data

This research aims at developing and performing a risk assessment test on open data in the context of data protection legislation in Europe. Today many geographic datasets are provided without any costs and without restrictions in the use, so called open data. Due to data protection legislation, data related to individuals cannot be provided as open data: these have to anonymised. Question is at what level of detail do these personal data be aggregated to not fall under the scope of the data protection directive. A second part of the research concerns the extent to which existing open data, presumably not being personal data, can be related to individuals by combining it with other open data readily available. Which data are conclusive in the identification of individuals which are less critical, can we provide a clear line between personal and non-personal data?

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Eurotitle: towards a single European land administration system

An increase in cross-border transactions of immovable property within the European Union puts a demand for easy access to the information of the national land administrations of the member states. The projects EULIS and IMOLA (https://www.elra.eu/imola/) were first steps, but these do not resolve the problems of the diversity of the national systems of land registry. The real estate and mortgage market highly values transparency and certainty of rights and restrictions in land. The introduction of a common way of land registration complimentary to the existing national land registrations, the EuroTitle system, may bring the required uniformity of land administration. This approach is in the beginning stages of development and the consequences need to be further researched in order to assess the feasibility of the introduction of such a concept in the world of European land administration.

Contact: Hendrik Ploeger


Alignment of geo-information policies

Geo-information is relevant to many policies of governments, and these policies and related policy instruments determine how public administrations are dealing with the collection, use, management and exchange of spatial data and information. Due to a lack of policy coherence, there often are contradictions, inconsistencies and gaps between different policies dealing with geographic information, which hinders the effective use of this information. The aim of this research is to develop a policy alignment approach that could support public administrations in realizing alignment between different policies dealing with geo-information.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Assessment of conditions for access and use of spatial data in Europe

One of the key criteria of a good data policy is that clear, complete and user-friendly information is provided to data users and potential users on how they can obtain access to data and services and under which conditions and charges they can do so. In many cases this information is included – or should be included – in the metadata of spatial data sets and services. Analyzing the metadata records of spatial data sets and services in the European geoportal, this research aims to explore to what extent the conditions for access and use of spatial data in Europe as defined by different data providers are complete, understandable and harmonized.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Global SDI Assessment Framework

While quite a lot of research is done and empirical information is available on the development of SDIs in European countries, studies in which the development of these European national spatial data infrastructures is compared with SDI developments in other parts of the world are relatively scarce. The aim of this research is to develop a framework that allows to analyse SDI developments in several parts of the world, and to apply this framework on several countries in different regions of the world. The research should contribute to a better understanding on how countries and public administrations in different regions are working on the development of spatial data infrastructures, the particular problems they have to deal with, and the way they are developing and implementing different SDI components.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Methodology for Assessing National Geographical Open data (MANGO); the development of a new standard

There is a wide variety of spatial data infrastructure assessment frameworks available. Often, open access to geographical data is considered to be the most optimal situation for an SDI. With the uptake of open data, also open data assessment frameworks are developed without very limited focus on specific data themes or domains. The SDI frameworks are relatively detailed, but difficult to apply, while the open data frameworks stand out in simplicity, but are too generic to be useful for SDI developers. This research aims at developing a new SDI assessment framework that takes best of both worlds: a user friendly assessment framework that feeds policy-makers with constructive information about the next steps of NSDI development. The developed framework has to be applied to at least two countries to demonstrate practical application.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen


Assessing SDI performance: The real-life testing of  STIG theoretical framework!

Inspired by the Financial Stress testing methods (and TopGear’s STIG), this  research provides the next step of the development of the user friendly SDI assessment tool. The Stress Test for Infrastructure of Geographic information (STIG) assessment method will provide a new robust SDI assessment based on the principles to assess financial infrastructures through financial stress tests. A first version of the STIG has been developed as part of the PhD research of Bujar Nushi. In this Msc thesis project the proposed STIG assessment method will be tested in practice. This includes making the STIG a workable, user friendly, realistic and effective SDI assessment methodology.

Contact: Bujar Nushi


Governance of the BAG: less influence less happiness?

Recent research on the Dutch base registry Addresses and Buildings (BAG) shows that municipalities have less power than facilitating stakeholders to influence how their work on the BAG is done. The research suggests, but does not confirm that this leads to unhappiness among stakeholders providing local data, because they could feel that they have to use their resources to meet the objectives of other stakeholders. This project will investigate in more detail the relation between being influential and happy in implementing and using the BAG. The information would be useful to further assess the balance between local and national interests. A positive outcome could provide additional motivation for municipalities to maintain and improve their BAG data, and may make them more open and susceptible to BAG enhancements.

Contact: Bastiaan van Loenen

Liability in the open data ecosystem

An open data ecosystem also raises questions about the liability in the data. Who can be held liable for errors in the data and data services if these are based on a wide variety of other sources and algorithms?

Financial and economic aspects of the open data ecosystem

Currently, the benefits of open data befall to society at large, whereas the costs are borne by organisations providing the open data. The funding of organisations with the sole or primary task to collect data face significant challenges. This situation will remain as long as data is not considered key for the functioning of our societies. The introduction of a data tax may be one direction, but inhibits significant transaction costs, something that open data itself managed to diminish to the minimum. Research into funding models ensuring that those that bear the cost of open data will be compensated in a sustainable manner should be subject of further study. Further the sustainability of ‘data’ companies in an – open – data society should be studied. We are aware of the impact open government data may have on ‘data’ companies that provide very similar data, but how sustainable is the open data ecosystem if ‘data’ companies also have to make their data available as open data? 

Design of a user driven open data ecosystem

In the end, the data user should be considered the main player in the open data ecosystem. The design of an effective user driven open data ecosystem will be one of the most challenging questions in open data research and practice. There is still very little knowledge available on users, their needs, and effective strategies to accommodate their needs. While current open data initiatives tend to focus mainly on professional users, there are various other groups that might benefit from using open data and want to apply open data immediately. Especially the needs of citizens are still barely considered . In addition, the issue of the divide between the data haves and the data have-nots is still very real . Because many open data frontrunners are European and North American countries, this may increase the socio-economic differences between these countries and other regions in the world. Within countries or regions themselves, a distinction can also be made between people who can deal with the available data (the ‘data cans’) and those who cannot or only to a limited extent (the ‘data cannots’). Clearly this will have serious social implications or consequences, e.g. because (government) facilities do not appear to be equally accessible to everyone. This urges for more (end) user-friendly data services, but also for accessible training opportunities for all user groups of open data (community capacity building).

Assessment of the open data ecosystem

In order to monitor and gain further insight into the status of open data ecosystems and to understand the socio-economic benefits of a well-performing open data ecosystem, research into the assessment of the open data ecosystem will be required. Especially challenging in the assessment of the open data ecosystem will be the measurement and evaluation of its success and value. The decision who should benefit from a well-performing open data system partly is a question of ideology. Should open data ecosystems especially provide social benefits (as in the sketched data democracy), or do we put economic benefits first? Is it possible to find the balance between different benefits and beneficiaries?

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