This week sees the publication of three new webpages; focusing on open data, social research and data science. These webpages are designed to introduce you to the topic, to explain our vision for implementing across the Welsh public sector, and to set out what we plan to do to help make the vision a reality. We also include some useful resources for further reading, such as links to relevant blogs, case studies, and user guides alongside information about future events and any other news that might be of interest. So, keep your eyes peeled!
Here we explain why we’ve chosen to focus on these topics, highlight some of our work to date, and set out what you can expect to see in the near future.
As an organisation we’ve been pushing the benefits of publishing data openly for some time. We started by making the data we publish open (where appropriate) and then started to look at how we might help embed the concept across the public sector.
So far, our efforts have focused on engaging with our public sector colleagues through a series of events and workshops we’ve run, both alone and with our Welsh Government colleagues. These have helped us to understand the challenges faced by publishers of data and how we, along with our partners, can help overcome them. They have also helped inform our vision and action plan for the next few years.
And then COVID-19 hit…
The importance of data has become very clear over the last few months – the need for quick and easy access to robust data has underpinned the Government’s response in Wales (both nationally and locally) to the pandemic. We’ve seen many organisations and individuals (including ourselves) repurpose published data to help policy makers and the public understand the ever-changing situation. This is open data in practice. It is essential that we build on this appetite for, and appreciation of, open and accessible information. So, what can you expect to see from us over the next few months?
We are currently putting the final touches to our national open data portal - a ‘one-stop-shop’ resource for public sector open data in Wales. The aim is that the portal will be a platform to which public sector organisations can publish their open data. It will also bring together open data that are already published elsewhere. We had originally planned to publish the portal earlier in the year, but as many of you will understand, circumstances meant we had to prioritise the assistance we provided to national and local government in their response to the pandemic. We are now planning to publish the first iteration of the tool this summer. Watch this space for news about its launch!
As part of the rollout we will once again liaise with our colleagues, in particular the members of our Open Data Virtual Network (see the website for more details). We will re-start the discussions about what data local authorities could and should be publishing openly. We are also keen to work directly with individual local authorities to help kick start their open data culture. We are also hopeful that we will publish some of our own data. After all, we must practice what we preach!
Social research and data science
Data science and social research are relatively new areas for us at Data Cymru. However, we have come a long way in a short time. We have recruited highly skilled staff, developed internal strategies, and proved how effective these analytical approaches can be.
As with our approach to open data, we have worked closely with local partners to build our social research skills and reputation, taking on commercial work as appropriate. To help embed social research within our analytical toolkit, as well as that of our partners, we contribute to a number of panels and forums. Furthermore, in a similar spirit to making data open and available, we are committed to sharing new knowledge and have published guidance on how to undertake evaluation work. We have developed specific knowledge on the creation and evaluation of logic models and theory of change models, as well as strengthening existing knowledge around qualitative data analysis, from focus groups to interviews to text analysis.
Similarly, we recognise the power of data science techniques to enhance analytical insight, streamline management processes, and introduce new technology to our analytical infrastructure. We have been highly successful in utilising data science techniques to improve internal data management processes and, having proved the concept, are ready to apply this learning more widely. In line with this, we are upskilling our staff in the R and Python languages, as well as exploring ways to make better use of complementary technologies, such as Azure DevOps.
We see the growth of open data practices and the strengthening of our data science and social research skills as exciting growth areas for Data Cymru and partners. These new approaches allow us to provide deeper analysis, from a wider range of (open) data sources, more quickly and efficiently than ever before. At a time of ever-increasing demand for analytical insight that can only be a positive. Watch this space!
About the authors