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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Building data-based economy in the EU

Brussels, 25 April 2018

Questions and Answers

I - Proposal for a review of the Directive on the re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive)

What is open public sector information and why is it important for the data economy?

In the EU, the public sector holds vast amounts of data, from geographical and weather data to education, economic and social data, known as public sector information (PSI). This data can be widely accessible and reused, sometimes under non-restrictive conditions.

Public sector information reuse can:

  • stimulate economic growth, spur innovation and help address a range of different societal problems, i.e. in healthcare or public transport;

  • lead to more transparency. Open public data can improve the visibility of previously inaccessible information and inform the public about policies, public spending and outcomes;

  • enhance evidence-based policymaking and increase efficiency in public administrations;

  • be a critical asset for the development of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which requires the processing of vast amounts of high-quality data.

Data is of utmost importance to the European economy. According to this study, the total direct economic value of public sector information is expected to increase from €52 billion in 2018 in the EU28, to €194 billion in 2030.

What are the current barriers to the reuse of PSI?

The Directive on the re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive) was last updated in 2013. The aim of the current revision is to strengthen the position of SMEs by dismantling market barriers to reusing public sector information for commercial purposes. The review identified the following barriers:

  • data generated by utilities, transport and publicly funded research has tremendous reuse potential, but is not covered by the current rules, even though much of this research is fully or partly funded by public money;

  • real-time access to public sector information is rare. This prevents the development of products and services using real-time information, such as meteorological and transport apps;

  • the re-use of PSI data can be very expensive, depending on the public institution offering it.

Why should public undertakings, such as transport or utility companies, provide open access to their data? How is the reuse of this data organised?

Access to and reuse of data from public businesses currently depends on company preferences, Member States' open data strategies, and legislation. This has resulted in market fragmentation that prevents users from developing cross-border products and services. With the revised PSI Directive, public businesses will be covered by a limited set of obligations that would ensure a fair market for the reuse of their data. They will still be able to set charges to recover the related costs and are under no general obligation to release data; but when they choose to release data for reuse, they will be covered by transparency, non-discrimination and non-exclusivity requirements.

What is the relationship between access and reuse in the PSI Directive?

Access is about obtaining information. The PSI Directive does not harmonise the existing access regimes in the Member States because this is a national responsibility.

Reuse involves making use of data in a different way than the original purpose for which it was created or collected. The PSI Directive introduced the right to reuse, which means that all public sector information that can be made generally available under national laws on access to information should, in principle, be reusable.

Will there still be charges for obtaining public sector data?

The revised Directive will strengthen the current charging principle by limiting the available exceptions: only very few public institutions – particularly in the cultural sector – will be able to charge above pro-rata marginal costs for dissemination.

Will research data from public funding be released?

The revised PSI Directive will cover research data that has been made publicly available. It will ensure the legal reusability of such research data within the scientific community and beyond by addressing, for example, the issue of licensing practices for research data.

The revised Directive will also set an obligation on Member States to develop policies for open access to research data resulting from publicly funded research.


II - Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information

Why did the Commission revise the Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information?

The original Recommendation of 2012 was part of a package that contained measures to improve access to scientific information produced in Europe.

The Recommendation adopted in 2012 requires a technical update to fit today's standard research practices based on open science, and to reflect the most recent developments in EU policies.

What changes did the Commission introduce in the revised Recommendation?

The revised Recommendation now better reflects developments in the following areas:

  • research data management (including the concept of data that is findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable);

  • incentive schemes and reward systems for researchers to share data and commit to other open science practices;

  • Text and data mining and technical standards that enable re-use.

Additionally, the revised Recommendation now reflects important ongoing developments with the European Open Science Cloud (See Staff Working Document). Finally, the revised Recommendation now more accurately takes into account the increased capacity of data analytics today in the context of research data policies for publicly funded data.

What is the expected impact of the revised Recommendation?

The Recommendation gives strong guidance to Member States on how to create the conditions that support excellent research across Europe by enhancing open access to and preservation of scientific information, including research data. Researchers will have increased access to research resources and services for storing, managing, analysing, sharing, and re-using scientific information, which is expected to boost scientific discovery and interdisciplinary collaboration.


III - Guidance on sharing private sector data

How does the Commission propose to improve B2B data sharing?

Following a broad stakeholder consultation (see Synopsis report), the Commission is issuing guidance to encourage and facilitate private sector data sharing between businesses. Additionally, the Commission will launch a call for proposals to set up a Support Centre for data sharing in the course of 2018 (funded under the Connecting Europe Facility). 

Why does the Commission formulate specific principles for sharing anonymous, machine-generated data?

Machine-generated - Internet of Things (IoT) - data is of growing importance for the data economy and is currently not covered by existing legislation. Typically, access and reuse rights are defined by private contracts, such as between the manufacturer and the company using the IoT object. With the Communication “Towards a common European data space”, the Commission describes what it considers to be fair and competitive markets for IoT data and for products and services relying on IoT data.


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