Today the ONS Data Science Campus is celebrating its second anniversary. Tom Smith and Heather Savory take a look back at the last two years and recap some of the exciting innovations and achievements so far.
Today in Manchester we are celebrating the work done by MSc students on the Data Analytics in Government course. It’s a great way for us to mark two years since the launch of the ONS Data Science Campus, at an event showcasing how data science skills across government can help strengthen statistics and improve the evidence-base for policy-making and delivery.
So, two years in, what has the Campus delivered? The case studies in our two-year review published today show how we are:
- applying data science tools, methods and practices to provide better statistics to help influence better decisions
- innovating by assessing the value of new data sources and techniques
- improving data science skills across ONS and beyond.
We have worked across government to deliver dozens of data science projects covering a broad span of topics including developing faster and more granular economic indicators, understanding trade, contributing to the public health debate and monitoring sustainable development. We have applied new data science tools, techniques and practices and investigated some of the new types of data emerging from the data revolution.
Last week, we published our first faster economic indicators, using VAT returns, road traffic and shipping data to provide an early picture of changes in the UK economy. These can potentially aid economic and monetary policy makers and analysts in making more timely decisions that affect the whole of the UK.
Over the past two years, we’ve built up a strong knowledge exchange team of academic managers, lecturers and trainers so that we can meet – and exceed – the target set by John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service, to produce 500 data analysts across government trained in data science, by 2021. This week we welcomed our first degree-level apprentices into the Campus and plan to extend ONS’s apprenticeship programme to higher academic levels over the coming years.
Inside ONS, we are helping embed data science skills across the organisation and strengthen the use of new types of data and analytical methods in the production of official statistics such as the Census and our economic outputs. We are now working with the majority of UK government departments, and have created a significant hub of data science activity based in London as well as our Newport HQ.
As we establish the Campus further, we expect to set up new Campus hubs in different parts of the country to ensure that the work we do is at the heart of UK public policy decisions. This month we reached an agreement with the Department for International Development on the first of these, establishing a new Campus hub at their office in East Kilbride in Scotland, focused exclusively on international development.
“As we establish the Campus further, we expect to set up new Campus hubs in different parts of the country to ensure that the work we do is at the heart of UK public policy decisions.”
We’ve also seen our partnerships with academic institutions blossom and are looking forward to working with many of the recently announced Centres for Doctoral Training in mathematics, statistics and AI. Moving forward we will be exploring new collaborations, such as fellowships, to enhance the benefits to the country of our close links with academia. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential to collaborate for public good with industry and we look forward to building on the success we have seen, for example, in our partnership with Barclaycard which is helping provide new perspectives on the UK economy.
ONS is increasingly being recognised as amongst the front-runners of modernising statistical institutes worldwide, including our ability to use big data and other novel data sources to improve national statistics. Overall, we want to cement our place as a world leader in data science, working in collaboration with partners, including working through UN agencies and other bodies – developing partnership programmes that help countries around the world to build their data science capability.
“ONS is increasingly being recognised as amongst the front-runners of modernising statistical institutes worldwide, including our ability to use big data and other novel data sources to improve national statistics.”
With a talented and experienced team and an Advisory Board now in place, we have a great launch pad so the Campus can help build on the achievements of the last 2 years, and help deliver a step change in the application of data science across the UK public sector. Above all, we want to help the UK public sector deliver the maximum benefit it can from the better use of data.
Heather Savory, Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Data Capability, Office for National Statistics
Tom Smith, Managing Director, Data Science Campus