The Government Data Science Community in 2022

In this blog post, we reflect on this year’s Government Data Science Festival and look at what is next for the community, starting with our upcoming meetup on 19 October, as well as other ways you can get involved in shaping the future of the community.

The Government Data Science Community is a vibrant UK public sector initiative, providing a space for analysts and data scientists to come together to support, share and learn from one another.

Community meetups provide a great opportunity to do this. This autumn marks the launch of a new series of meetups, starting with a virtual event on 19 October, from 10am to 11.30am. You can find more information and details of how to register on Eventbrite.

Festival roundup: the future of data science for public good

In May 2022, the Government Data Science Festival gave a platform to the community, along with colleagues from the academic sector, to discuss the future of data science for public good. It was a festival for the community, by the community, enabled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Data Science Campus, in partnership with colleagues from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The festival started with a panel of leading figures in data from government and academia addressing some big questions about the future:

  • what are the big questions data science will answer for the public sector in the next few years?
  • what will data and data science look like in 10 or 20 years’ time?
  • what would data science’s worst future disasters look like?
  • should data science be a profession?

The panel included Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s National Statistician, Dr Laura Gilbert, Chief Analyst at 10 Downing Street (10DS) and Professor David J Hand from Imperial College London.

During the two weeks of festival events and activities, these questions, and many others, were discussed across 85 sessions held by speakers from 33 organisations. The topics ranged from using spatial data to model land use change, synthetic data for healthcare analysis, data science to drive policymaking, to project management for data science. There was even a session on comedy writing for great communication!

Data science skills development featured throughout the festival, and the Campus faculty team ran a programme of learning at all levels, from our “Art of the possible” session, through to advanced technical tutorials.

People came together in social spaces, including yogalates, gaming sessions and well-being sessions. A series of community engagement workshops gave us valuable insights into what you want for the future of the community.

A hackathon was held in collaboration with the Analysis Function’s Analysis in Government month, with a theme of #AnalysisCollaborate. Eight groups from across government were given a data challenge to better understand the impact of the cost of living rises for households across the UK. Not only was this a great opportunity to work with people from different organisations, but it also gave the chance for teams to explore different techniques, learn and share from others.

All this was organised with amazing support from a team of “festival makers”, colleagues from across government and the public sector who gave their time to support the event.

A huge thank you to everyone who was involved. The festival would not have been the success it was without the help from our speakers, festival makers and the organising team.

Your data science community

After the festival, we formed a working group including colleagues from across government and the public sector, to help run the future programme for the data science community and develop a roadmap of activity.

We have drafted a Community Charter, which outlines what the community is for, its values, and how it will work. We will share this at the next community meet-up. The charter will be owned by the community, so we would love to hear any thoughts you have before the final charter is published.

For the community to continue to be a vibrant, supportive and inclusive space, we need your help. There are several ways to get involved and enable the community to keep supporting and learning from one another.

Volunteering with the community activity and events

This is a great way to gain experience and skills, widen your perspective and build your network. We will be sharing details of specific volunteering opportunities soon.

Leading a sub-community

Is there an area of special interest or expertise around data science that you would like to share with like-minded colleagues? We can support with tools and resources to help you run a sub-community.

Being a data science community lead in your organisation or region

Are you looking to grow and develop a network of data science expertise in your organisation or across your region? We can support you to establish this and ensure you maintain links with the wider community.

Have your say

Tell us what you want! Drop us a line at government.data.science.community@ons.gov.uk or join the dialogue on the Gov Data Science Slack channel. You will need a public sector email address to join.

Come to a community event

You can simply come along or hold a session on a project, technique, idea, success, failure or challenge you are working on – come and share it at a community event!

Sign up to the community mailing list

To keep in touch with community news and events, sign up to the community mailing list.

What next for the data science community?

As ever, the predominant theme throughout the festival was the need to continue working together, sharing ideas, data, tools and techniques. Kirstine Dale from the Meteorological Office (Met Office) highlighted that “data science is a transformative technology that is moving so fast, that no single organisation is going to be able to remain at the forefront or to address the challenges and opportunities that are presented. So, it is critical that we work in partnership.” We think this quote sums up nicely why the data science community is so important.

We are excited to move into the next chapter. With your help, we can keep offering a programme for the community, by the community. For more news and events across the data science community or to get involved please email us at government.data.science.community@ons.gov.uk

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