The Data Science Campus celebrated a significant achievement on Monday 27 March, as it opened its doors for the first time at the ONS headquarters in Newport.
The event attracted over 130 guests from a variety of public, academic and commercial organisations, including significant ministerial attendance from both UK and Welsh governments.
Officially launched by Minister for Cabinet Office and Paymaster General the Rt Hon Ben Gummer MP, he praised ONS for “transforming itself into a 21st century data-driven organisation, a focal point for UK data science and an important provider of skilled jobs in South Wales.”
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns, who also joined the celebrations said “the significance of the campus should not be underestimated” and that “no better research or analysis will be done anywhere else than here and so many communities, economies and companies will benefit directly from this.”
There was a real buzz in the air and sense of excitement as guests were welcomed into our new, bright and airy space which boasts a number of sustainability benefits. These include blended copper screens, durable carpets and a green sedum roof, ideal for wildlife.
The Campus will be home to an innovative and dynamic team of data scientists who will work collaboratively with academic and industry partners, to shape and deliver a step change in the way we use a variety of data sources and techniques, to drive better public services.
For example, as MD Tom Smith explained to BBC Radio Wales’ Good Morning Wales, “we will help ONS to look at mobile phone data, to understand commuter patterns, by using GPS in smart phones and picking up data from mobile signals. We could aggregate this data to get a picture on how are people getting to work and any changes in commuting patterns”.
As part of the campus’ ongoing ethos, ‘data science for the public good’ research activities will be delivered in line with 5 core themes – the evolving economy, the UK in a global context, social data, urban and rural, and sustainability.
Our data scientists and apprentices, showcased a number of projects that are already underway, including focuses on tourism and migration, calorie intake and mobile phone flows. Guests were impressed with what they saw and engaged in discussions around future project ideas and collaborations.
What followed was a varied and innovative programme of presentations by a cast of experts: our own MD Tom Smith, Warwick Business School, Statistics Netherlands, Informatics Lab and Flowminder, all of whom had different stories to share of how they are using data science for the benefit the social and public good.
Highlights of these sessions were captured visually
and attendees shared their experiences and thoughts of #DSCevent on social media – we were even trending by the afternoon!
One of the key aims of the Data Science Campus is to build data science capability across the UK and beyond. This will include setting up extensive academic networks and delivery of joint research programmes with national and international partners.
This was highlighted by Welsh Government Minister for Skills and Science Julie James as she praised our collaborations to deliver the UK’s first data analytics apprenticeship programme.
Deputy National Statistician Heather Savory, together with MD Tom Smith, closed the event after what had been an extremely exciting and thought-provoking day.
Next steps? Although an important milestone, the launch is only the start of the Campus’s work to help ONS realise our vision of better statistics for better decisions.