Budget 2016: key announcements for the statistics community

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Investment in data science, maths education and a freely available address register were announced in Wednesday’s budget.

Chancellor George Osborne announced that £10m would be invested in 'a new hub for data science and a centre for excellence in economic measurement’. This announcement was made as part of the Cabinet Office and Treasury's response to the Bean Review in which the recommendations made by Sir Charles Bean (summarised in this StatsLife feature), were accepted.

The new hub, the government says, ‘will maximise the public value of existing and new data sets – so called “big data” from public and private sources – using cutting-edge techniques to allow the Office for National Statistics to produce more innovative, accurate and timely statistics.'

The Office for National Statistics responded to the announcement in a press release, confirming that around £17m of overall investment would support a new Data Science Campus and Economics Centre of Excellence at the ONS headquarters in Newport over the next two years. The Data Science hub, it said, would partner with academics to develop more ‘real-time’ economic statistics and the Economics Centre of Excellence will ‘provide a venue for cutting-edge research’.

In the budget speech, George Osborne also revealed that the government has asked Professor Sir Adrian Smith, the current president of the Council for Mathematical Sciences (and former RSS president) to conduct a review looking at how to get more 16-18 year olds to study maths. Sir Adrian will look at the feasibility of more or all students studying maths to 18 in the longer-term for the review, which will report during 2016.

Hetan Shah, RSS executive director, said: 'The RSS welcomes the support shown by the Chancellor for the Bean Review of economic statistics. We also look forward to feeding into Sir Adrian Smith's review to increase the uptake of maths post-16. The government has already made positive moves here through the introduction of the Core Maths qualification, so there is a lot to build on.

Also included in the budget was a commitment of ‘up to £5m’ to develop options for an ‘open address register’. The RSS welcomes this move, having expressed concerns before Royal Mail was privatised (PDF), about the Postcode Address File (PAF) no longer being an open data set contributing to the UK’s information infrastructure.

Official Statistics Office for National Statistics (ONS) Sir Charles Bean

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