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Government data science blog publicises new public dialogue

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The cross-Government Data Service (GDS) has launched a new blog site as “The official blog of the cross-Government Data Programme, with updates from government departments and also from the central data team in the Government Digital Service.” An early posting publicised the planned Cabinet Office public dialogue being undertaken with support from Sciencewise.

The blog posted on 8 December 2015 focused on data science ethics with a link to the draft Data Science Ethical Framework. The value of data science to policy making is stressed, as well as the challenges:

“Data science allows us to use new types of data and powerful tools to analyse this more quickly and more objectively than any human could. It can put us in the vanguard of policymaking – revealing new insights that leads to better and more tailored interventions. And  it can help reduce costs, freeing up resource to spend on more serious cases. But some of these data uses and machine-learning techniques are new and still relatively untested in Government. Of course, we operate within legal frameworks such as the Data Protection Act and Intellectual Property law. These are flexible but don’t always talk explicitly about the new challenges data science throws up.”

The creation of an ethical framework is outlined which aims to enable data scientists, policy makers and operational staff feel confident about making decisions on the data, by providing a simple document that helps Government officials decide what it can do and what it should do.

The draft document is the focus of the public dialogue being undertaken by the Cabinet Office with Sciencewise support, described in the blog as follows:

“Changes in technology will have made some people more relaxed about putting their data online, and some people more concerned. We want to understand what different groups of people think about how Government should be making use of data to make better policy and improve public service efficiency. We’re just starting a public dialogue on the ethics of data science involving workshops where people can spend two days understanding and debating the issues, a survey to get reflections of a wider group and an interactive tool which people can use to find out more about data science.”