Titled ‘Seizing the Data Opportunity’, the strategy begins with the premise that the increasing significance of data is ‘one of the greatest opportunities and challenges facing policymakers today.’ It cites figures by the Centre for Economics and Business Research which estimates that the big data marketplace could create 58,000 new jobs in the UK between 2012 and 2017.
The wide-ranging strategy focuses on three overarching aspects to building data capability: setting in place a strong skills base; setting up an agile, resilient and responsive data infrastructure; and setting systems in place so that the sharing and linking of data is done securely and appropriately.
In order to boost the skills base, organisations including e-skills UK, Nesta (supported by the RSS) and the Open Data Institute are tasked with exploring the skills shortages in data analytics. Universities UK will review how data analytics skills are taught across different disciplines in higher education. In November 2013, the government is holding a workshop, bringing together universities and businesses, to discuss how to get the right skills to computer science graduates.
The RSS getstats campaign is named in the strategy as one of a number of key initiatives serving to improve data handling and quantitive skills, as is the recently launched Q-step programme. Plans are also afoot to boost the image of data analytics and the different career opportunities within it by collating career profiles of people working in the discipline.
A programme to drive awareness and access to e-infrastructure for businesses will form part of the government’s infrastructure strategy. It will also strive to attract overseas investment and customers to the UK’s ‘strong and established’ data centre industry. In addition, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is developing plans for a national network of centres in big data analytics.
The strategy also covers research data and the recent moves towards open access. To this end, the Royal Society will next year convene an Open Science Data Forum to develop proposals supporting open access.
The government is also looking at its own data capabilities and the Government Statistical Service (GSS) will launch its own data strategy later this year. For consumers, the midata programme will be widened, so that people can access personal data that a company holds about them.
Roeland Beerten, RSS director of professional and public affairs commented: 'The RSS welcomes this strategy, and in particular, the recognition the country needs to address the issue of statistical skills in the educational system and in a wide range of professions. If we want to derive real value from open data, solid analysis and interpretation needs to be applied to generate evidence. Strong data handling and statistical skills are essential enablers for this to happen.'