The Royal Statistical Society welcomes the Science & Technology Select Committee report published last week, which highlights the potential value big data has for the UK, and the action now needed to use big data ethically and to its full potential.
Many of the recommendations made by the RSS in its Data Manifesto, as well as the written and spoken evidence we gave to the Big Data Inquiry have been included in the Science & Technology Committee final report recommendations. These include:
• A Council of Data Ethics within the Alan Turing Institute as a means of addressing ethical issues around big data and to ensure good practice around big data generally (as suggested by the RSS in evidence quoted in paragraph 80 of the report)
• A government commitment to a substantial role in improving data skills, as highlighted in the RSS Data Manifesto, to ensure that we have the necessary big data skills base that the UK needs
• Opening government departmental data and breaking down data silos, so more datasets can be delivered to others in government and to external users (as suggested by the RSS in paragraph 41).
• A right of access to data for the Office of National Statistics and developing a framework for auditing the quality of data within government departments. The RSS is particularly pleased that its suggestion that ONS should have access to public and private data sets has been formalised as a report recommendation (see paragraph 80).
Hetan Shah, RSS executive director, said: 'This report highlights the potential transformational power of data for our society, but it shows we need to get the ethical infrastructure right to maintain public trust. In this era of austerity, government needs to sweat its assets by sharing data better both across departments and with external users.'
The RSS written evidence to the Big Data Inquiry is available on the Data.parliament (DDP) website. The report itself is available on this parliament.uk page.