Exploring the role of a government data scientist

At their heart, our data science challenges are about opening up the pool of talent available to the UK government, giving data experts from other walks of life a chance to support the nation’s defence and security. But what does the role of a full-time government data scientist look like? Let’s find out…

Historically, the defence and intelligence communities have always been at the forefront of the big data technology movement, prompted by the simple fact that storing and processing large amounts of data have always been their burden to bear.

Because of this, many earlier big data technologies and methodologies originated from the intelligence community, with data science playing a vital role in the way wars are fought and security is maintained. However, the rapid pace of development in this field, and more traditional approaches to procurement and process change, mean that it can be tough to keep pace with the private sector.

That’s now changing. The appetite for cutting-edge approaches to existing problems has increased, thanks in no small part to initiatives demonstrating, time and again, that these approaches work. Our online challenges are just one such initiative, and they’re going to make the job of a government data scientist busier and much more interesting.

A day in the life of a data scientist

Nowadays, a data scientist working for the British government might typically be tasked with improving the value we derive from data. This would typically involve making incremental developments to the architectures and algorithms. This is done through collaborative working with operational users and at times industry suppliers.

When it comes to this data, there’s no substitute for the real stuff, so emphasis is placed on perfecting methodologies using the source material we might end up using in a live defence scenario. As you might imagine, this isn’t usually easy or cheap to obtain.

There’s also a great deal of collaboration with the outside world. Despite the obvious constraints surrounding who exactly gets to see government data, getting to work with intelligent, motivated talents from industry and academia is a big factor in what makes this work so varied and exciting.

That being said, when deciding who to bring in on a collaboration, it can be challenging to find those with sufficient talent who also meet the strict security criteria for being involved in government work. That’s why our data challenges are seen as the best of both worlds. We encourage bright minds to work with representative defence data and give defence professionals a window into the broader data science community. It’s an innovative solution to an age-old problem and, if successful, a stunningly efficient use of resource.

What does the future hold for UK data science?

With both the talent and the data now at our disposal, we’re focused on consistency and flexibility, both in the way we continue to harness talent beyond our traditional suppliers, and in the quality of the methodologies we develop.

By building on initiatives like these challenges, we’re moving towards a future where we can access the top talent in UK data science without tying businesses, or even individual experts, into defence contracts.

These challenges also increase the exposure of the work done by government data scientists. It’s about sending a message that this is an arena where those with the aptitude to revolutionise the way we use data to help keep our nation safe now have an outlet to do so.

Has this given you a taste for learning more about government data science? Visit our community to catch up with the latest buzz, or dive right in and see our challenges in action.