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First Sciencewise Sounding Board pilot on 'big data', linking education and economic data, has been set up and run within one month

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The first full pilot of the new Sciencewise Sounding Board was agreed, set up and run within one month from the initial discussion. The Sounding Board approach works through a virtual meeting (similar to a webinar) and is designed to provide quicker feedback from public participants than may be possible with face-to-face workshops with newly recruited public participants.

Sounding Board participants were recruited by drawing on a pool of past participants from public dialogue projects supported by Sciencewise. All those involved had given formal permission for Sciencewise to contact them again and then took up an invitation to take part in Sounding Board activities. Each Sounding Board project will draw on an appropriate number and sample from this pool of past participants.

The pilot Sounding Board project was commissioned by policy makers in Department for Education (DfE) and in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The focus was on gaining public feedback and insights on the use of 'big data' which links individual learner administrative data with tax and benefits data from DWP and HMRC. The results are intended to inform the ethics protocol and communications for future work on linking this data. The project considered the types of data science projects that are appropriate, their aims, the data used and the potential risks and benefits.

23 Sounding Board public participants from a broad range of age groups, geographical locations and educational backgrounds took part in an introductory information session for one hour on 24th September, followed by a 1.5 hour session of discussion on 26th September. The sessions were facilitated by Sciencewise (Amy Pollard), and were supported by one policy maker each from DfE and BIS. The dialogue report is expected to be completed within two weeks of the final dialogue session, and the ongoing evaluation is working closely alongside the project to provide an assessment of its success, impacts and lessons for the future.