The Office for National Statistics has today launched its Data Science Campus in Newport, Wales, to make better use of data and develop the statistical information it provides.
The campus is part of a £17m investment in statistics announced in March 2016 following a review by the former deputy Bank of England governor Charles Bean.
The Bean review said there needed to be a “culture change” within the ONS to equip it for the digital economy, and called for it to improve its capacity to measure the impact of the digital economy. Bean also said the ONS should become more user-focused and collaborative in its work.
The campus’ work aims to address these points, by identifying new data sources and technologies to provide statistics for policymakers and businesses. Its work will focus on five themes: evolving economy, urban and rural, society, sustainability and the UK in a global context.
The launch event is being opened by the minister for the Cabinet Office Ben Gummer, and he is expected to say that he is “pleased and impressed to see how ONS is busy transforming itself into a 21st century data-driven organisation [and] a focal point for UK data science”.
The campus’ managing director, Tom Smith, the co-founder of an Oxford data science spin out company, was appointed at the end of last year.
In a statement published ahead of the launch, he said that the campus would be “at the forefront of data science in the UK and beyond”, acting as a hub and incubator for data science and starting global collaborations.
“We are excited about the enormous potential to build a new generation of tools and technologies,” said Smith. “It means we can maximise the insight that the growth and availability of innovative data sources is making possible.”
The campus will also offer training and learning programmes to increase data science capability across the UK, including providing funding for PhD students and creating a data analytics apprenticeship scheme.
The UK’s national statistician John Pullinger is expected to say that this wide range of training “will be central to building data science capability across the UK”.
The ONS is also creating an economics centre of excellence, which will work alongside the data science campus, to help the body in its effort to become more innovative and outward-looking.