The coming year promises to be a brilliant time to be an analyst in government. Later this month we will launch the vision for the Analysis Function to help mobilise the collective talent that exists across the Civil Service in the analytical and allied professions. People in economist, actuarial, operational research, science, engineering, social research, data scientist and statistician roles represent government’s analytical talent. While the close links with digital, finance, operations and policy roles and their use of analysis are what maximise the impact of the Function.
The digital and data revolution has the potential radically to transform the service we can provide. However, until recently, we have not had the system-wide infrastructure in place fully to deliver on the promise. We have now and it is up to us to make the most of the opportunity by investing in ourselves. The creation of the Analysis Function recognises this and one of its objectives is to build a learning offer which strengthens analytical capability within and outside of the Function across government.
Great examples of what is possible have existed for some time: the Ministry of Justice datalab, supporting voluntary organisations working with ex-offenders; HMRC’s predictive analytics work helping ensure that tax due is translated into tax collected; DEFRA’s open data initiative driving innovation in the geospatial data community. There are many more.
In the last year the analytical response, led by DCLG, following the Grenfell Tower fire; the work of the Home Office Data Analytics Competency Centre to help tackle modern slavery; and the Department for Education’s development of the Longitudinal Education Outcomes system, have shown the power of new ways to do analysis in support of decision making at all levels from the individual to the country as a whole.
At the same time the investments have been made that will allow us to step up to make the most of the opportunities and meet the challenges of the years ahead through both continuous improvement in our established work and innovations which give fresh insight. The Industrial Strategy has highlighted artificial intelligence and other data related areas as priorities for UK research and innovation. The Digital Economy Act enables a much smarter approach both to respecting the information rights of individuals and businesses and realising public benefits for society as whole through better policy, better service delivery, better value for taxpayers, better responses to crises, better economic prospects and better informed democracy.
Within ONS we have seen the establishment of the Data Science Campus, linked to the cross government Data Science Partnership; the launch of the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, as a partnership led by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research; upgraded communications via the visual.ons channel supported by creative use of social media; and the creation of Data as a Service for UK research and statistics.
By working across disciplines and organisations these enhancements to our capability are already enabling substantive improvements to our understanding of critical issues such as trade, migration, productivity, health, crime and the economies of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and cities and regions across the UK. These developments give us confidence that much more is possible.
Now is the time to invest in ourselves since achieving our goals is all about us. Across the civil service we have brilliant people with an appetite to learn new skills and learn from each other. Working as a well networked team we are a brilliant, diverse community. Let’s make 2018 the year we step up a further gear and make our individual and collective talents count where they matter most – giving brilliant public service that helps Britain make better decisions.
John Pullinger, National Statistician
If you have examples where you have been involved in analytical work that is making a difference and delivering public benefit please respond to this blog or by emailing me – I can then share your achievements with Jeremy Heywood and leaders of the Analytical Function when we meet on 31 January.