Data Science Campus Advisory Board – 25 July 2019

 ItemLeadDiscussion points
1IntroductionsTom Smith

1.1 Tom Smith welcomed Members to the fourth meeting of the Advisory Board, including Giles Pavey who was new to the Board. The members introduced themselves.

Tom highlighted changes in the leadership at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), notably a new interim National Statistician – Jonathan Athow, who joined the meeting later – and a new Director General for Data Capability. Tom discussed the upcoming challenges and opportunities, including the uncertainty over the timing and nature of the 2019 Spending Review, but also the opportunities presented in the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) report, and how these could influence the vision for the next steps for the Campus.

2Information sharing and Campus updatesTom Smith & Peter Fullerton

2.1 Peter Fullerton provided a summary of progress on the actions from the Board’s third meeting. All actions were either complete or on the agenda.

2.2 Tom Smith presented monthly and quarterly updates for the last four months. Tom highlighted key achievements for the Campus including a monthly publication (faster economic indicators, soon to be handed over to Economic Statistics colleagues in ONS), the publication of our first article in a peer-reviewed journal, the continued use of new data sources, and the setting up of the Campus Hub in East Kilbride as the first step towards a Campus franchise system. The Members discussed the role of the Campus within ONS and wider government and suggested several contacts for the Campus to follow-up.

Action 1: Tom Smith to review the format of regular updates.

2.3 Peter Fullerton presented a revised risk register for the Campus, based on feedback given by the members at the last meeting. The new framework followed broader themes and indicated mitigating actions. The members highlighted the risks that producing good data science but a failure to implement could bring. The members also discussed the classification of risks and risks associated with the perception of ONS – both as to whether it is perceived as the “place to go” in government for data to evidence policy, and as to the perception of data security at the Campus and ONS.

3Seeking advice: increase and demonstrate Campus impactTom Smith, Dave Johnson, Rachel Prior

3.1 Rachel Prior presented a proposed survey for the Board to measure the Campus’s impact and progress against its goals, intended to form a single KPI to report to the National Statistics Executive Board. The members queried whether they were the right people to complete the survey due to a potential conflict of interest, and whether a survey of this type was the best way of measuring the Campus’s progress. The members suggested that such a survey could be useful to send out to other stakeholder groups including Campus staff, wider ONS, and other government departments. Other methods of measuring impact and progress were proposed, including the net promoter score or qualitative interviews that could be text mined.

Action 2: Rachel Prior and Peter Fullerton to revisit proposals for a single performance indicator for the Campus and methods to demonstrate impact.

3.2 – 3.3 Dave Johnson presented on the Campus’s career pathways, academic partnerships, and the Campus’s role within government. The members were impressed with the presentation and discussed how impact achieved through those who have received training or other capability-building input from the Campus could be used when demonstrating overall Campus outputs and impact. The members also discussed how pathways for data science skills were important in local government as much as central government and asked whether the Campus could consider new outreach methods such as sending Campus data scientists back to their old universities to speak to current data science students, organising meetups, or running Kaggle competitions.

3.4 Tom Smith chaired a discussion of the future direction of the Campus, including the objectives for the Spending Review. Jonathan Athow described his priorities for the Campus in the future, including achieving the right balance of exploring the cutting edge of data science, delivering solutions for government and building capability, as well as creating a community for data scientists and analysts across government.

Members suggested that the Campus should consider whether it wants to be a permanent hub of innovation, or whether it should be a time-limited organisation aiming to change ways of working across government: that this should be a decision for the next National Statistician. There was overall support for the former among the members. Advisory Board members also expressed support for the franchise model of Campus hubs such as the one in East Kilbride, and stressed the need to create statistics, evidence and products that decision-makers need to inform policy.

4A.O.B / CloseTom SmithTom Smith thanked the members for attending. The next meeting is expected to take place on 7 November 2019 at the Imperial College Data Science Institute.
Peter Fullerton, Anya Crisp-Patterson, Rachel Prior;
DSCAB Secretariat, August 2019