Data Science Campus Advisory Board – 4 February 2021

Item Lead Discussion points
1 Introductions Tom Smith
  • Tom welcomed members to the meeting of the Advisory Board. He introduced Arthur Turrell who is soon to join Campus as Deputy Director and Tom congratulated Louisa Nolan on becoming a permanent Deputy Director and Chief Data Scientist at the Campus. Louisa had been on a temporary promotion to  the role at the last meeting. The members introduced themselves. Tom thanked everyone for making the time to join the meeting and how much the Campus values the Boards input.
  • Arthur introduced himself to the group, saying he was excited to be joining Campus from the Bank of England. Arthur will head up Economic insights, EU exit and Portfolio management work.
  • Tom reflected on two key Campus projects. The exploration of traffic camera work and how these could produce indicators about movement in specific areas. It was developed open-source data and identified lots of opportunities to utilise the information. The project is now being handed over to the ONS Faster indicators teams for use in production of statistics. The second was work on free text data from ship manifests. This work is used by HMRC to help categorise freight movements, particularly between UK and island of Ireland.
  • Tom also highlighted the Campus’s work in terms of building capability, including the 500 analysts trained in Data Science, as commitment in the National Data Strategy (NDS), the Data Science Masterclass, aimed at non-data scientists to build awareness in the Senior Civil Servants (SCS) of the opportunities data science offers, and the graduate programme, bringing in new entrants to develop additional capacity.
2 Welcome Tom Smith Tom introduced Campus delivery plan, focusing on four key theme delivery areas and two cross cutting agendas.  These will see the Campus consolidating work, demonstrating the move from start up to core business.  Developing new products and researching use of new data sources to improve information available to policy makers.  The Community element, building capability across the public not solely Central Government, but also Devolved, local and NHS.
3 Campus structure Louisa Nolan Louisa presented the new Campus structure, and explained how the Squads will focus on specific work programmes,

  • Mobility and COVID-19
  • EU Exit, IDP and scale up
  • Economic Insights
  • International
  • FCDO Hub
  • Capability

Lewis explained how the squads allow for a more transparent structure of people and projects, which helps us share with stakeholders what we’re broadly working on outside of what might be their direct links with us. It will allow for our data scientists to have better opportunities to build more experience in domain expertise whilst at the same time continuing their data science skills development through reading groups, seminars, mentoring and self-development ad hoc projects. These things will take place across all squads.

The Board raised interesting questions particularly around evaluating the work and avoiding silos and how topics that do not easily fit within the themes are considered. They also asked how domain knowledge is shared and how connections are built and maintained

Actions

Follow up with Martin Weale on mobility in the context of All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and left behind areas.

Provide staff turnover data for next meeting.

4 Mobility Louisa Nolan and Kaveh Jahanshahi

Louisa and Kaveh presented slides in support of their paper.

Starting in early 2020 looking at mobility data as part of the Covid response, there was huge interest in telecoms data from across the public sector.  Key issues have been the cost of the data access and data quality or granularity.

There is a current work programme to develop a centre for mobility within the Campus and collate requirements and priorities and how to involve the wider public sector.

The Board asked challenging questions around the cost of data and the use of Digital Economy Act, section 45D.  Are there opportunities to give our questions back to the suppliers, and how can they improve the information provided.  Also, using the lessons from the pandemic, how we can we build a repository of documents and guidelines to show how data could be rapidly accessed and processed to support responses to any future crisis?

The Board also reflected on the wide variety of data sources, hi-res satellite data, Uber, DLD, Royal Mail, NCP car parks and petrol services, plus in car telemetry, and inverse mobility, where people rarely leave home.

The Board suggested opportunities to collaborate with the Turing Institute and the Urban Big Data Centre. The Board also discussed house prices indices and fungibility.

Sustainability was also mentioned as a huge challenge, and how can data help in this area.

Actions

Follow up with Caroline Bellamy regarding telecoms data.

Follow up with Matt Leach on APPG work on Left behind Areas.

Consider the Geospatial Commission’s work on ethics around location data.

5 Capability Louisa Nolan

Louisa provided information about the Campus capability and capacity building work.

This showed details of the number of people would have accessed Campus training provision, showing we are exceeding the 500 trained analysts target in the National Data Strategy.

Louisa reflected on how provision was quickly changed from face-to-face learning to online at the outset of the pandemic and how we have continued to develop new content, working with 10 Downing Street on the Data Masterclass and the Accelerator programme.

Louisa explained our scale up plans for the graduate programme, and the high level of interest across government for this.

A key question from the Board was how we ensure the identity of the individual and how do we “certify/badge” their training. Also how do we track progress and retention longer term.

Another key point was data literacy for policy makers and procurement, developing understanding the opportunities and limitations of data science, potential to extend the masterclass to other leadership programmes such as Future Leaders?

The Board also discussed visibility. How does the Campus promote itself via the training it provides and support it offers to wider government to build capability and how do we measure the impact of this.

Caroline Bellamy commented on the exceptionally positive feedback she had received regarding the Data Science Masterclass from a very senior MOD official.

Actions

To consider how we manage ID of candidates and certification of learning.

How do we ensure the Campus is visible in the training and capability building (branding) it supports and how do we measure the impact of this provision?

6

International

FCDO Hub

Eric Deeben

Tom Wilkinson

Eric presented information on the work of the International team, covering UNECE ML 2021 group, UN Statistics and international capability building and knowledge exchange, plus specific programmes such as ESSNet and IRIS.

Tom presented the FCDO work providing mentoring and training, research and tool building with outputs such as livestock mentoring, Nowcasting and REX.

The Board were positive about the work and suggested opportunities with the British Council, who spend circa £1 billion on training at the UK plc level, the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is important to show how our support brings value. Lots of other departments and organisations are delivering similar projects.

The Board were interested in the Iris project and the work on international disease classification.

Actions

Follow up funding opportunities with British Council, Centre for Science and Policy, Cambridge and ESRC.

Follow up with Martin Weald, David Hand and John Taysom on the Iris project.

7 Any other business All

Tom thanked everyone for their attendance. There was a good debate in the chat channel, and lots to follow up on.

The next meeting will be in May/June, with a Doodle poll to be sent out to select the date and to include a short comfort break.

Sheila Powell, Anya Crisp-Patterson; DSCAB Secretariat, February 2021