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A study of big data and other innovative data-driven approaches for evidence-informed policy making.

Study by Technopolis, the Oxford Internet Institute and CEPS. Contracted by the European Commission.

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About Data4Policy

Evidence-based policy-making. Exploring opportunities from innovative data technologies in the European Commission

Using 21st century tools to address 21st century issues

The notion that policy decision should be based on sound evidence has become widely adopted by many public administrations throughout the European Union. Data technologies are amongst the valuable tools that policymakers have at hand for informing the policy process, from identifying issues, to designing their intervention and monitoring results. A wide range of opportunities have emerged with the use of new data technologies, from innovative data sources and close to real-time data, to advanced analytics and modelling and dynamic visualisation.

Cutting-edge solutions come with new challenges and steep learning curves for policymakers. How to find the appropriate data solution to complex policy questions? How to get access to privately owned data sources and ensure mutualisation and interoperability across data sets and models? How can advanced analytics be both timely and simple and clear enough for fast-paced policy decisions? How to distinguish between hype and false promises, and real added value?

A European Commission project

In 2014, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Communications networks, content and technology (DG CONNECT) launched a reflection around new trends in evidence-informed policy-making, as one important element of Public Sector Modernisation. With an emphasis on the opportunities raised by new technologies, this reflection involves several European Commission services and reaches out to experiences from other public administrations and to scientific and technical expertise.

The Data4Policy study commissioned to Technopolis Group, the Oxford Internet Institute and CEPS was completed in 2016 and fostered rich discoveries and connections with practitioners, academics and governments with an appetite for experimentation and public sector innovation. The results of the study are presented on this website.

For a quick read, opt for this summary.

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Case Studies

Ten case studies showcasing the potential of big data technologies for European policymaking.

The ten case studies cover a wide-range of policy areas, data sources, volumes and frequencies. They have been developed by the study team through collaborative and participatory methods together with topical and data experts in the European Commission's services.

An analysis of the case studies gives more clarity on the methodology and learnings.

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Learning analytics

This use case considers the opportunity that a more extended use of learning analytics represents for an improved policymaking in the field of education. Read more...


This use case reflects on the opportunity provided by the technique of nowcasting for support in policymaking in the economic sphere through real-time monitoring. Read more...

Ocean governance

This use case illustrates the opportunity that exploitation of vessel positioning data, linked to other data sets, represents for an improved conservation of marine resources and global ocean governance. Read more...


This use case discusses the potential of using new, innovative (big) data sources and analytical tools to facilitate and improve trade policymaking. It explores the possibilities of using new innovative data sources on the firm level for trade policy. Read more...

Consumer policy

This use case explores the possibilities and potential benefits of online retail monitoring for consumer policy. Read more...

Bee health

The case study showcases the value of using real-time, sensor data from bee hives in addition to pesticide use and other  statistics for understanding systemic stressors and  monitoring bee health. See the online demonstrator and read more...

Big (health) data in dementia

This use case looks at leverage big data for improving health,
particularly focusing on the  growing number of dementia cases. Read more...

Crisis management and anticipation

case study explores new and near-real-time data sources for anticipating and managing crisis. Read more...

Citizen science and environmental policy

The case study reviews opportunities for using citizen science to inform and enact environmental policies. Read more...

Text and opinion mining

Text and opinion mining are two methods that may assist policymakers throughout all
stages of the policy cycle. The case study gives an overview of methods and applications. Read more...

A consolidated report can be downloaded here.

One Demonstrator

The Dashboard is intended to illustrate how data drawn from many different sources, and at different levels of granularity, can be integrated to afford users such as beekeepers, scientists and policy-makers an integrated view of the bee health domain and the various stressors that may affect bee health. This concept should be applicable not only to the case of bees but more generally for environmental policy challenges that could benefit from real-time, continuous sensor monitoring combined with a comprehensive set of environmental and policy data. Showing such combined data in a unified visualisation and analysis interface allows explorations and inferences that may not be apparent by looking at individual data sets.
This data exploration can be carried out at several levels:

  • Hive-level (microscale): the real-time behaviour of single hives and apiaries, including information on hive internal environments

  • Neighbourhood-level (mesoscale): information on local environmental conditions, including local weather, nearby crops and their flowering patterns, local use of pesticides and local pollution

  • National and EU-level (macroscale): information about crop-use and other biodiversity indicators, nation-wide usage of pesticides, incidence of disease, etc. and their effects at national level, as well as information about regulatory events and their impacts.

Sample indicators at bee hive level, collected through sensors
Pesticide use at crop level. Fictitious data
Mee mortality trends
Comparative dashboard
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A State-of-the-Art Report

The starting point of the study was an inventory of examples and data4policy projects from governments in the  EU Member States and EU-level organisations, while taking into consideration initiatives in Canada, India, Singapore, South Korea, US and international organisations such as World Bank. The  reports discusses how (open) administrative data is being used intensively, how new data sources are being used (e.g. sensor data and social media data), how data linking is becoming the norm and how data analytics still mostly concerns descriptive statistics. In addition, the report explores how big data and other innovative data-driven approaches are used in different policy areas and in different parts of the policy cycle. Moreover, the report discusses ethical issues such as privacy, representativeness and inclusion, and the challenges in moving from pilots to full implementation of data-driven approaches for evidence informed policymaking.  

An executive summary  of the report gives a quick overview, whereas the courageous readers cand consult the full state-of-the-art and inventory of projects.

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Data meets policy

September 2015. This high-level international workshop hosted a collective reflection on the potential of new and emerging methods for data analytics, alternative data sources and visualisations to dramatically transform the way that public policy is conceived and executed.

If you've missed it, here is the report.

workshop pic.JPG
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