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Decisions of the European Parliament, Council, Court of Justice, Central Bank; the results of EU-funded research projects; annual reports; brochures of all kinds… An indefinable number of content is published each year by European Union institutions, agencies or organisations.

For the most part, these are legal documents, which are consulted by a limited number of people. This does not mean that this data is not likely to be of interest to a wider audience. On the contrary! At a time of big data, the Publications Office of the European Union based in Luxembourg has been thinking for some time now about transforming this gigantic mass of information to make it accessible to a greater number of European citizens.

A quality often linked to volume

Last year, the institution organised a conference on the future of publishing. Experts from all over the world were invited. “The idea was to share best practices and discuss the different existing trends,” says Rudolf Strohmeier, Director General of the Publications Office of the European Union. “This conference allowed us to confirm what we had already anticipated: younger generations are consuming more and more information on mobiles, where graphic elements are essential to make them attractive.”

“For a long time, institutions thought that the larger the report, the better the quality,” explains Simon Steuer, Project Assistant at the Publications Office. “Today, we want to make these publications more accessible by integrating graphic elements that will allow us to visualise this data rather than having to read it. The objective is to communicate better and more transparently with the citizens of the European Union.”

EU Data Viz

The Publications Office already uses this approach in its dealings with institutions. Its teams encourage a new approach to content creation, giving more space to visual elements. “We have increased our offer of services for institutions, because the demand is growing at this level,” confirms Rudolf Strohmeier.

However, the institution wants to continue to improve its know-how. The EU Data Viz conference, scheduled for 12 November at the European Convention Center, must meet this need, while providing an opportunity to share data and new technologies with publishing professionals. This meeting is part of the follow-up to the conference on the future of publishing held last year, but this time it focuses on the specific issue of data visualisation. In addition to European officials involved in the publication of information, the Publications Office hopes to attract journalists and researchers.

We didn’t expect to receive so many proposals.

Moreover,  the interest seems to be there. A call for contributions was opened at the beginning of the year. More than a hundred proposals have been made and the selection has been finalised Friday, July 19. “We didn’t expect to receive so many,” admits Cécile Adam, Head of Unit. “It’s about presentations, workshops, exhibitions… We’ll now analyse them and see what we retain.”

A challenge to collect good ideas

Three years ago, the Publications Office launched its first EU Datathon, a kind of expanded data-driven hackathon. The objective was to encourage students, employees and entrepreneurs to take advantage of European Union data by developing new services. Some of the projects developed during these events, which have been taking place every year since, are now of interest to the Publications Office, which is considering possible collaborations.

“For us, it’s a win-win situation with start-ups. On the one hand, and we are not ashamed to say, we are looking for ideas. On the other hand, we offer them our expertise to better understand EU data in order to create business opportunities”, summarises Rudolf Strohmeier.

During the EU Datathon, a start-up in particular has developed an application using all public tenders issued throughout the European Union. There are on average 2,300 per day. “And all this information is completely free of charge on the EU’s Open Data portal,” says Ventsislav Voikov, Head of Unit at the Publications Office.

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