“The National Archives has received ‘big data’ funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to deliver the ‘Big Data for Law‘ project. Just over £550,000 will enable the project to transform how we understand and use current legislation, delivering a new service – legislation.gov.uk Research – by March 2015. There are an estimated 50 million words in the statute book, with 100,000 words added or changed every month. Search engines and services like legislation.gov.uk have transformed access to legislation. Law is accessed by a much wider group of people, the majority of whom are typically not legally trained or qualified. All users of legislation are confronted by the volume of legislation, its piecemeal structure, frequent amendments, and the interaction of the statute book with common law and European law. Not surprisingly, many find the law difficult to understand and comply with. There has never been a more relevant time for research into the architecture and content of law, the language used in legislation and how, through interpretation by the courts, it is given effect. Research that will underpin the drive to deliver good, clear and effective law. Researchers typically lack the raw data, the tools, and the methods to undertake research across the whole statute book. Meanwhile, the combination of low cost cloud computing, open source software and new methods of data analysis – the enablers of the big data revolution – are transforming research in other fields. Big data research is perfectly possible with legislation if only the basic ingredients – the data, the tools and some tried and trusted methods – were as readily available as the computing power and the storage. The vision for this project is to address that gap by providing a new Legislation Data Research Infrastructure at research.legislation.gov.uk. Specifically tailored to researchers’ needs, it will consist of downloadable data, online tools for end-users; and open source tools for researchers to download, adapt and use.”
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