John Sheridan, Head of e-Services and Strategy at The [UK] National Archives — and a member of our community — has posted Legislation.gov.uk, on the VoxPopuLII Blog, published by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School.
In his post, Mr. Sheridan describes the origins and functionality of Legislation.gov.uk, the innovative new official legislative information system for the United Kingdom.
Mr. Sheridan offers an account of the user research that gave rise to Legislation.gov.uk: that research showed that users frequently did not understand the currency or status of the legislation they accessed online. These findings led Mr. Sheridan and his team to develop a new system that employs visualizations and other tools to make clear to users whether the legislation they are viewing is in force and is the most current version available. Mr. Sheridan and his team also created a point-in-time legislative information system, which allows users to view how a statutory provision appeared at a given chronological moment.
Mr. Sheridan’s post then explores the innovative technology that powers Legislation.gov.uk, including:
- Linked Data, enabling automatic semantic processing of legal texts;
- The combined use of Permanent URIs, Representational State Transfer (REST), and object-oriented design and modelling characteristic of the O’Reilly Media PRESTO architecture;
- Open government data, characterized by the provision of bulk access to data in machine-processable formats via an open Application Programming Interface (API), and Creative-Commons-type “copyleft” licensing;
- A sophisticated metadata model — incorporating FRBR, the CEN MetaLex vocabulary, Dublin Core Terms, and the Crown Legislation Markup Language and XML Schema for Legislation — enabling advanced version control and output of descriptive metadata;
- Content negotiation, facilitating output of legislative data in a wide range of formats; and
- Creative use of open source software.
Mr. Sheridan demonstrates how stakeholders — such as the UK’s Electronic Service Delivery system — are beginning to build on Legislation.gov.uk’s technology, by extracting valuable data from statutes, and developing new, Linked-Data-based information systems with it.
In his post, Mr. Sheridan welcomes feedback from readers about such issues as compatibility with standards — including CEN MetaLex, OAI-PMH, and URN:LEX — and the use of RDF to represent complex attributes of legislation.
Mr. Sheridan concludes by inviting members of the private and public sectors and of civil society to explore Legislation.gov.uk and to use its data in innovative ways.