The month that was – September 2017


This is our monthly update for September – one of a series of regular snapshots on what we’ve been doing in the Campus to support data science for public good. There’s more detail on how we’re delivering projects, building skills and supporting the data science community in our blog.


It’s been six months since we formally opened the Data Science Campus and the first project publication is now fast approaching. Findings from the developing and visualising local economic indicators project will be published in the coming weeks, including a report, data, code and an accompanying visualisation tool. As part of this project we explored the ways in which economic indicators can be developed from detailed Office for National Statistics (ONS) business datasets without disclosing sensitive local-level business details. We’re excited to share the work we’ve been doing in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and we would love to hear your thoughts on the project when the findings are published.

We’ve been making good progress with our project on shipping. We now have access to Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) data on ship positions – through the Automatic Identification System (AIS) – and real-time reporting data from the Consolidated European Reporting System (CERS). We’re using the data to study traffic and trade at UK ports, in collaboration with the Department for International Trade, Statistics Netherlands and the MCA.

To see more information about the range of projects we’re working on, take a look at our projects page.

Data science community and partnerships

The Campus supported two significant events this month, hosting sessions on “Data Science for Public Good” at the Royal Statistical Society annual conference in Glasgow, with the Data Science Lab at Warwick Business School and the Urban Big Data Centre at University of Glasgow, and on “Better Data for Better Policy” at Data for Policy 2017 in London, with ONS colleagues Emma Rourke and the Big Data team. The Campus was an important partner of Data for Policy, along with GO-Science as part of the Government Data Science Partnership. Our apprentices had the opportunity to volunteer at the event and you can read more about their experiences. 

We hosted a return visit from EDINA – University of Edinburgh’s centre for digital expertise – on 12 September. Their visit provided us with the opportunity to showcase the work of the Campus and share experiences of data science research, capability–building, technology solutions and working with schools.

Our partnership with Statistics Netherlands’ Center for Big Data Statistics continues to flourish and we spoke at their international seminar in Heerlen: Big Data Matters – Towards Smart Statistics, on the first anniversary of their formal launch.

Our MD Tom Smith also gave a well-received key note speech about the Campus to 300 “R enthusiasts” at the Enterprise Applications of the R Language (EARL) conference in London on 13 September.

Growing skills

As the new series of The Apprentice kicks off on BBC One this week, we were delighted to welcome our own cohort of six new Data Analytics Apprentices to the Data Science Campus on 11 September, most having come straight from school or university. The first cohort of eight apprentices, who started their programme last year, have now moved into other directorates in ONS to gain more hands-on experience applying data science techniques to business problems.

Our new apprentices getting to know each other during their first week in the Campus

 As part of our ongoing support for the development of data science capability in partner organisations in less-developed nations, we visited the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda this month. This visit was in partnership with ONS International Development team and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The team is supporting the implementation of the Data Revolution Policy for Rwanda – building an innovative data-enabled industry to harness rapid socio-economic development. The next steps are for the team to draft the report and recommendations, which cover the whole framework of data and data science in Rwanda. We’ve been invited to return in December to support African Statistics Day and finalise the plan.

In September, we also facilitated a workshop on the use of data science within ONS for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). UNECA expressed strong interest in close collaboration with ONS and the Campus, with a view to supporting similar data science initiatives to those of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda in UNECA partners.

We’ve been running a regular series of lunchtime seminars to enhance data science capabilities of ONS staff: in September we welcomed our first external speaker, John Murray from Fusion Data Science and University of Liverpool, to these events. John covered 40 years of geodata science, illustrating his engaging talk with examples using LiDAR and other data sources.

If you’re interested in joining our team, we have three vacancies in the Campus. We’re seeking two Data Science Trainers who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others and one Partnerships Manager to build strong collaborations between the Campus and other organisations. Applications close on 15 October.

The month ahead

We’re fast approaching the release of our calorie project publication and other projects are looking to follow suit.

October will see the start of the new MSc in Data Analytics for Government (MDataGov), a course designed to equip the next generation of government data scientists and statisticians with an advanced set of skills and abilities. Developed in partnership with the ONS Learning Academy, the MSc is provided by Oxford Brookes University, University College London and the University of Southampton. Although applications for the MSc are now closed, one-off modules are still available.

The next cohort of the Government Data Science Partnership (GDSP) Accelerator Programme Academy will start on 26 October. The Campus is again hosting the Newport hub, providing successful public sector applicants from Wales and South West England with the opportunity to spend a day a week over three months working on a data science project under the guidance of a Campus mentor.

We’ll be briefing Assembly Members on the work of the Campus at the National Assembly for Wales Senedd on 18 October.

Several more visitors to the Campus are expected, including the United Nations, BBC, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Public Health England. We’ll let you know how they go.

For more information about any area of our work please contact us.