While open data policies ideally enable the online release of all public government information, the release of data may end up being a staggered process for practical reasons, such as insufficient funding or staffing. Governments should be clear about the range of potential methods that could be used in determining the priority-order of data release.
A variety of goals, actors and events can contribute to the determination of data set prioritization. Because of the traditional relevance of ethics concerns to open government policy, data which provides oversight of high-frequency areas for governmental ethics concerns serves the specific goal of achieving accountable government. Publishing data which is used in the process of creating public laws or rules, data related to specific legislative or executive policy initiatives, or data which is created incidental to a new policy or regulation serves the goals of civic engagement and transparency. The goal of satisfying public demand can be achieved both through a review of the existing volume of requests for government data and through a new solicitation of public comment. (Although direct public participation is important, it should not serve as the sole method of data set prioritization, because this mode of participation can inadvertently serve to reinforce the specific preferences of people who are already comfortable engaging the government.) Finally, given practical concerns, the cost of releasing individual data sets is likely to be used as an aspect of determining priority for release. While cost may be a factor in determining the priority of data release, it should be balanced against other prioritization methods in order to produce a truly useful collection of public data.
- Montgomery County: Open Data Implementation Plan, Appendix B – Dataset Scoring Methodology and Outreach
- New York: Open Data Handbook Guidelines Release Prioritization
- Civic Commons' "Open Data Priorities"
- Sunlight's "The chicken or the egg? Deciding which data to release first"