The European Union (EU) act known as the INSPIRE Directive arrived on the scene in 2007 and has been actively discussed within the spatial industry ever since.

INSPIRE’s intention (to enable public sector bodies across Europe to share and access each other’s spatial environmental data) is a worthy objective, but the directive’s complex and slow execution in some countries has made it a sore subject.

With deadlines pending, INSPIRE has reasserted itself as a hot topic. Here are 10 things you need to know about it:

1. All EU public bodies will be able to access each other’s data

Under the directive, all EU member states must make spatial environmental data available in common formats. This will allow public bodies from different states to access each other’s data.

2. INSPIRE is specifically for environmental data

The directive obligates member states to make datasets available under 34 different environmental themes such as: addresses, protected sites, geology, land use, mineral resources, natural risk zones, soil etc. These 34 data themes are divided into three groups, called ‘Annexes’.

3. INSPIRE is due for completion in 2021

INSPIRE first came into effect in May 2007 and is being implemented in stages, with full implementation expected to be complete in 2021 (See the roadmap here).

4. We need INSPIRE for cross-border policy making

Across the EU, there was originally no common best practice on how to store and share spatial environmental data. Data existed in multiple locations, formats and languages. This made cross border collaboration very difficult, which was particularly inhibiting during times of crisis.

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Storms, forest fires, floods, pollution and other environmental events are not confined by borders. Do you remember that airplane-grounding ash cloud in 2010? It was spewed out by a volcano in Iceland (called ‘Eyjafjallajökull’ – good luck pronouncing that one!) and rapidly spread across Europe, leading to the closure of European airspace for days.

INSPIRE is standardising the way that environmental data is made available. With accessible, streamlined data, it will be easier to solve problems that affect multiple states and faster to make informed decisions in times of crisis.

5. INSPIRE is praised for these reasons…

  • INSPIRE makes it possible to combine spatial data from different sources across Europe.
  • Data is being made readily and transparently available through a central online geo portal.
  • INSPIRE provides a source of accurate, authoritative data that users can trust.
  • Public bodies can avoid duplication and overlap issues because data only has to be collected once.

6. INSPIRE is criticised for these reasons…

  • The directive is complicated and difficult to digest (You can take a stab at reading it here: (EU Directive 2007/2/EC).
  • There’s a shortage of software, skills and supporting documentation. Some individuals who work directly with public sector environmental data are finding it difficult to transform their data into the formats required by INSPIRE.
  • The complicated reporting requirements means that too much time is spent reporting to the commission and not enough time is spent actually making the data available.

7. Some countries are more ‘inspired’ than others

Looking at how an EU directive is actually defined, you’ll notice that it “sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve” but it’s up to each individual member state to “devise their own laws on how to reach these goals”. This means that, while all member states are collectively obliged to achieve the goal of INSPIRE, they’ve individually had to figure out how exactly they’re going to achieve it.

While work on INSPIRE is ongoing at EU level, some member states are finding it difficult to maintain momentum at a national level. Some countries are behind on their obligations and need an injection of knowledge and expertise to catch up.

8. Deadlines are looming

INSPIRE is a particularly hot topic in 2017 because deadlines are fast approaching. The pressure is building and everyone needs to work together to make it to the finish line.

9. You can learn how to move forward with INSPIRE at this year’s EFGS conference

This year’s EFGS (European Forum for Geography and Statistics) conference in Dublin gives people a chance to understand the work that’s happening in relation to INSPIRE across different member states.

The conference will attempt to answer the question ‘How can we move forward’ and provide attendants with actionable methods that they can apply when transforming their own data. Presentations will showcase examples of successful data transformation methods carried out by public sector organisations.

EFGS 2017 will also provide an opportunity for attendants to build networks involving people whose work involves or is affected by the directive. Register your interest in attending.

10. You can present an INSPIRE-themed paper at EFGS

Is your work affected by the INSPIRE Directive? We invite you to share your experience.

Some of the things we’d know include:

  • What software and methods are you using to transform your data?
  • Are you using data that has been made available by another member state as a result of INSPIRE? How are you accessing it? How are you using it?
  • What challenges have you identified and what technical solutions and methods have you implemented to overcome them?
  • Have you collaborated with another organisation to transform data?

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Participation is encouraged from those who are actively transforming public sector environmental data into INSPIRE-compliant formats, and also from those who work in the area of INSPIRE at policy level. Submit your abstract here.