ONS appoints leader for data science campus

Written by Rebecca Hill on 18 October 2016 in News

The Office for National Statistics has named Tom Smith, the co-founder of an Oxford data science spin-out company, the managing director of its new data science campus.

The data science campus aims to help government make better use of statistics - Photo credit: Pexels

The campus, announced in March this year, will act as a hub to help government take advantage of expertise in data science from the rest of government, the private sector and academia.

Smith has experience working in all of those areas, most recently as the chief executive and co-founder of the University of Oxford spin-out company OSCI, which carries out research and data analysis for public and community sector organisations.

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He led the government's English Indices of Deprivation project and is also the chairman of the Environment Data Advisory Group and vice-chairman of the Royal Statistical Society's official statistics section. 

In addition, he has regularly provided government agencies, departments and local government with advice, including being a member of the open data user group, which advises the Cabinet Office, and offering the ONS advice on how to pen-up, share and use data. 

His new role will see him lead the ONS data campus, which is being set up at the body's headquarters in Newport. Smith will officially take up his post in January 2017, although the ONS said he would be working with his team "ahead of this time".

The campus - which is part of a £17m investment from the government announced in the 2015 budget - will carry out fundamental methodological and conceptual research in five themed research areas: urban future, society, sustainability, the evolving economy and the UK in a global context.

It will work with academic partners across the UK and will also offer training and funding for PhD students, as well as opportunities for industry researchers.

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.

The new centres were both announced after a review of the economic statistics environment by the economist Charles Bean, who said that the ONS needed to boost its presence and improve the way it measures the impact of the digital economy.

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