The months that were – December 2017 and January 2018

Data Science Campus Lecture Theatre

Following a brief midwinter break, here is our bumper two-month update, covering December 2017 and January 2018. The Campus continues to grow and so we’ve been busy looking for new talent to join us. We launched a series of recruitment exercises before Christmas and are in the process of considering all the applications received. We are running a rolling recruitment exercise for senior and experienced data scientists, so the advert for these posts remains open: we’ll review the next batch of applications at the beginning of March.

This brief update is one of a series of regular snapshots that highlight many of the things we’ve been doing to support data science for public good in the Campus. There’s more detail on how we’re delivering projects, building skills and supporting the data science community in our blogs. For more information about any area of our work please contact us.


To meet the thirst for more local data, we have developed a new interactive visualisation tool tool which combines information collected by ONS with open data to paint a more detailed picture of the fishing industry in the UK, without identifying individuals or businesses. All the code and instructions for the app can be found on the Data Science Campus Kamino Github repository.  The accompanying non-disclosive dataset can be found in the repository and a hosted version of the app is also available.

Following the successful hackathon with Barclaycard in November, a joint Barclaycard / ONS pilot project has been agreed. This is based on the winning team’s proposal from the hackathon, and will explore the development of rapid regional economic indicators using payments data. The project team will include ONS and Barclaycard analysts, subject matter experts, and data experts and is expected to conclude in July 2018.

The Campus reviewed the next round of research projects. Topics in contention include: big data techniques for the enhanced financial accounts (flow of funds), alternative economic indicators, Sustainable Development Goals indicators, access to services, measure of the physical environment, transport modes, analysis of the impact of Comic Relief, quality of child social care and quality of life for people.

We have piloted a new process for ethical consideration of data science research proposals by self-assessment, presenting the results to the National Statistician’s Data Ethics Advisory Committee who agreed that this process should be rolled out for the Data Science Campus and across ONS.

Data science community and partnerships

A delegation from the data campus and ONS’s Methods Data Research Directorate met with colleagues from Ordnance Survey and Geovation at the Geovation Incubator Hub in London to explore opportunities for collaboration in the field of Geodata. The Campus also met with UK GEOS (Group Earth Observation Satellites) to discuss their plans for the co-ordination of Earth Observation and remote sensing data for the UK Government.

The Campus ran a Challenge Workshop at Lancaster University in December. The workshop brought together MSc and PhD students in Statistics, Operational Research and Economics to explore data science and economic challenges associated with current Campus research using live shipping data as an early indicator of GDP.

The RSS South Wales Local Group and RSS Data Science Section hosted a meeting titled “What is a data scientist’s responsibility to wider society”. ONS Director Ian Cope spoke about the work of the National Statistician’s Data Ethics Advisory Committee. The meeting was followed by an introduction to and tour of the Data Science Campus.

Colleagues from NHS Digital visited the Data Science Campus in January. A draft list of potential areas of collaboration was discussed with a commitment to develop a shortlist of projects for the Campus to support NHS Digital and ONS’s Health Analysis and Life Events division.

An inaugural meeting for the partners in Economic Intelligence Unit Wales was held. This is collaboration between the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), Data Science Campus, Cardiff University.

Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and several Welsh voluntary sector organisations visited the Data Science Campus in January. Along with colleagues from other parts of ONS, we covered our work on the Sustainable Development Goals, partnership with Barclaycard and the wider aims of the Campus. We also gave a brief overview of how we are working with organisations to get hold of alternative sources of data so that we can produce better statistics to help better decision making.

The Campus also hosted a data science workshop with colleagues from Statistics Norway and ONS’s Big Data Team in January, followed by a methodology and data architecture workshop with our Methods, Data and Research Directorate.

Two of our data scientists, Louisa Nolan and Ioannis Tsalamanis, visited the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in January to discuss data science support in Northern Ireland. The Campus will help to mentor an economics and a health project in NISRA.

The Campus worked on a joint call for proposals with the Alan Turing Institute’s Economics Programme. The Campus will offer inward secondments to successful applicants, bringing in data science and economics expertise to perform cutting-edge research on our rich datasets.

A new Partnerships Manager joined the Campus in January, based in London. Jane Crowe is helping to manage the Campus’s relations with other government departments and support the work of the Government Data Science Partnership.

Growing skills

The Campus ran the first of its week-long Continuous Professional Development data science courses in January: The Fundamentals of Data Science. This course of MSc modules was delivered onsite at our Newport Campus by Oxford Brookes University. Over 40 attended, around half from ONS and half from other government departments.

In our Data Science Open Seminar series for ONS staff, Sergi Martorell, Co-Founder, GlassAI presented onArtificial Intelligence that maps and monitors the UK economy based on its Web presence”  In this talk Sergi presented on the application of text analysis and artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to read and interpret the web’s data at scale. In January UK Statistics Authority Non-Executive Director Professor Jonathan Haskel from Imperial College gave a seminar in our lecture theatre about his role on the Authority Board and his new book “Capitalism without Capital”.

The Campus Capability Team, Big Data and Learning Academy jointly delivered “Art of the Possible” data science training in December to senior colleagues from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Communities and Local Government, Treasury, Public Health England, Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice. DEFRA participants were from the office of the Chief Scientific Adviser, whom the Campus is supporting to build out a data science hub in 2018 through joint research projects and a tailored training programme.

And finally

Our programmable Lego robots played a starring role in ONS’s coding week in December, when we were also impressed by young students from a local school Code Club. Data Scientists from the campus in conjunction with staff in the ONS Learning Academy helped to deliver sessions for staff including a robot Olympics, robot dance-off and a fun introduction for complete coding novices: “Rock, Python, Scissors”. Staff also delivered a session on coding using the programmable robots to visitors from St Mary’s Primary School Code Club (with our apologies to Santa / any parents who received additional requests for Christmas presents as a result).

In the month ahead we will be:

  • busy interviewing candidates for the various positions we are aiming to fill as the Campus continues to grow
  • developing our world-wide collaborations: Ceri Regan and Louisa Nolan from the Campus will be returning to Rwanda to support the implementation of the Data Revolution Policy for Rwanda, hosted by the National Institute for Statistics for Rwanda. Two of our data scientists will be at a University College London National Research Foundation data science workshop in Singapore and will visit the UN Global Pulse Lab in Jakarta
  • publishing our detailed report on the ECLIPSE project, “Evaluating Calorie Intake for Population Statistical Estimates” and a blog on a social media project with the National Assembly for Wales
  • putting in place the final touches for the (sold out) annual Government Data Science Partnership Conference being held in London on 1 March, working jointly with the ONS Big Data Team, Government Digital Service and the Government Office for Science
  • looking forward to welcoming the next cohort on the Data Science Accelerator Programme to our Newport hub. Applications for this round close on 19 February
  • launching the new Economic Data Science Research Programme in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute

That’s all for now – check out our next snapshot in early March, when we’ll be highlighting what we get up to in February.