Data at heart of government's future challenges, says RSS in new report

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Recommendations made by the RSS have been included in new report by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), setting out how the government might improve its strategies to cope with future challenges, both known and unknown.

Leadership for the longterm: Whitehall’s capacity to address future challenges looks at a number of areas in which a potential crisis could happen and whether structures are in place to manage should they happen.

But while the headline findings were a shortfall in preparing for another potential global financial crisis, the report was far more wide reaching, looking at the UK's resilience to longer term threats to prosperity such as an ageing population and the potential effects of climate change. It identified a lack of resource in the Cabinet Office's five-strong horizon scanning programme team, which was established to gather and synthesise relevant information in government.

The RSS response to the inquiry reiterated many of the points made in its Data Manifesto, such as 'skilling up' both civil servants and the public to ensure they are better able to handle statistics and numbers in a data-driven world. It pointed out that 'much useful data still remains under-used in Whitehall departments, either because of a lack of awareness about its existence, or anxiety about data protection rules', a point that was raised in the report.

The Society's suggestion that the government commit to a ten-year strategic framework for science and innovation (and raising the UK’s investment in Research and Development as a proportion of GDP from 1.7% to 2.9%) was also acknowledged in the report as part of a longer-term opportunity for the UK to become what former special advisor Dominic Cummings calls: 'the school of the world.'

Another RSS recommendation - that decisions in government should be evidence-led and that the recently developed 'What Works' centres should continue to be invested in - was also mentioned in the report, which noted that the centres were intended to 'improve the way Government creates, shares and uses evidence for decision-making'.

Finally, the RSS welcomes the PASC report's recommendation that there should be 'a stronger appetite in the Civil Service for the understanding of risk, uncertainty and the longer term', as it believes that 'capacity in Whitehall would be improved if policy makers were trained in data handling and statistics'.

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