ESRC-ADR UK No.10 data science fellowships 2021

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Apply for funding to spend a year collaborating with 10 Downing Street’s data science team (10DS) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

You will:

  • co-design research and produce analysis using new and existing linked administrative datasets to inform policy in priority policy areas
  • champion data science across central government and support wider knowledge exchange with researchers on effective policy collaboration and data analysis.

The datasets will be accessed through the ONS’ Secure Research Service.

You must:

  • have a PhD or equivalent experience
  • be a social science-focused researcher based at an eligible UKRI research organisation
  • have relevant quantitative analytical experience.

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost of the fellowship. Funding will last up to 18 months to cover:

  • inception phase for project set up, three months
  • placement with 10DS, 12 months
  • impact phase, up to three months.

This fellowship is available on either a full-time or part-time basis.

Who can apply

This opportunity is open to economic and social science researchers or those working at the intersection between economic and social science disciplines and fields such as computer science, statistics, and applied mathematical modelling. Applicants must hold a PhD or equivalent experience and be based at an eligible UKRI research organisation.

The opportunity is particularly targeted at early to mid-career academics. It is a requirement that early career applicants are provided with appropriate mentorship by a more senior academic with relevant experience from within their institutions, and this will be funded through the award. In addition, project-specific mentorship may also be funded if this is identified as necessary during the inception phase.

Person specification

You must:

  • be an economic or social science researcher or a researcher working at the intersection between economic and social science disciplines and fields such as computer science, statistics, and applied mathematical modelling
  • be based at an eligible UKRI research organisation
  • hold a PhD or equivalent
  • have expertise in and experience of applying data science techniques and methods, including working with novel data sets and assessing data quality and reliability
  • have experience of working effectively at pace, including as part of a team on shared goals
  • have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to translate complex information into meaningful, easily understood narrative that is accessible to a non-academic audience

In addition, we welcome applications from individuals who can demonstrate:

  • subject matter expertise relevant to one or more of the potential cross-cutting government priorities, or expertise that can be transferred and applied to topics such as these
  • experience of stakeholder engagement and collaboration
  • experience of working in a governmental context
  • experience of designing and leading on knowledge exchange activity between research, policy and funder communities

Opportunity requirements

If successful you will be required to:

  • be or become an accredited researcher of the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service (ONS SRS) platform
  • sign a secondment agreement between ESRC and ADR UK (the Funder), the Cabinet Office (the Department) and the relevant research organisation (the Employer). The secondee will be required to observe the provisions of the Civil Service Code and the Official Secrets Act 1989
  • unless otherwise agreed, spend two days per month (pro rata) at the 10DS offices
  • pass a disclosure and barring security check
  • meet all security requirements before you can be appointed:
  • follow the Government Digital Service Data Ethics Framework
  • complete a conflict of interest form before you can be appointed. It is a condition of the secondment that the secondee ensures to the best of their ability that in the course of their duties for the Department, there will be no conflict of interest or perception of such that will or may cause either embarrassment to, or difficulties for, the Employer or the Department.

Whilst during the COVID-19 pandemic it has been possible to access all data held on the ONS SRS remotely, it is possible that some data sets required to support projects may revert to only being accessible in ONS safe rooms. If this does happen, fellows will be able to apply for additional funding to cover associated travel and subsistence costs.

Fellows will also be expected to undertake and travel for knowledge exchange activities and may be asked to attend events with the wider ESRC policy fellow cohort. By applying to the fellowship, you are acknowledging and agreeing to this possibility of additional travel.

The applicant’s research organisation must:

  • hold or commit to gain Assured Organisational Connectivity
  • commit to supporting any additional costs agreed as part of the inception phase through an appropriate full economic cost contribution
  • provide mentorship support for early career researchers, including but not limited to generic project development, engagement and dissemination support, and (if necessary) project-specific thematic, methodological or data support.

What we're looking for

There is increasing recognition of the opportunity for linked administrative and other data created by government and public bodies across the UK to enable vital research to support better-informed policy decisions and more effective public services.

ESRC and ADR UK wish to fund up to four data science fellowships to be jointly hosted by 10 Downing Street’s data science team (10DS) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The fellowships will last up to 18 months to cover a three-month inception phase for project set up, followed by a 12-month placement with 10DS and ONS, and concluding with an impact phase lasting up to three months.

Fellows will co-design analytical projects with 10DS and the ONS, and produce analysis using a range of administrative, survey and newly created linked data sets that have the potential to inform government decision-making. Utilising your exceptional data science expertise, you will work with No.10 and ONS to identify relevant data and produce analysis using these data sets, including via the ADR UK-funded ONS Secure Research Service (SRS).

You will demonstrate the potential of these data sets to inform decision-making on the most pressing policy problems of our time. These are demanding and intellectually stimulating roles, providing an exciting opportunity to combine your specialist technical skills with the opportunity to inform decision-makers at the heart of government.

As an ESRC-ADR UK No.10 Data Science fellow you will:

  • co-design research and produce engaging and insightful analysis to inform policy in priority areas using existing data sets available in the ONS Secure Research Service (ONS) and other data sets you identify as relevant
  • champion data science across central government and support wider knowledge exchange with researchers on effective policy collaboration and data analysis
  • identify new data sets that could be developed and linked to strengthen the evidence base for policymaking.

In addition to 10DS and the ONS, you may work directly with the No.10 Policy Unit, Prime Minister’s Implementation Unit, and government departments in scoping your research projects.

You should have the willingness and capability to undertake research in a range of policy areas. Fellows are likely to work on analysis related to one or more cross-cutting government priorities, which may include:

  • COVID-19 recovery
  • Net Zero
  • Levelling Up

Pre-existing subject matter expertise is not an essential requirement.

During an initial three-month funded inception phase, you will identify and co-design specific research projects with both 10DS and ONS to respond to immediate priorities at the time of your placement. Examples of data sets that fellows could access include:

  • Business Impact of COVID-Survey
  • NHS Test and Trace data
  • Census data linked to NHS and administrative data
  • Ministry of Justice courts and prisons data
  • Longitudinal Education Outcomes data.

Fellows may need to work with data that is longitudinal, multi-modal, high-dimensional, small and large, ‘uncleaned’, or highly sensitive. Data engineering skills (such as extraction, processing, cleaning, coding and storing) are useful but not essential. We welcome applicants with basic and novel modelling skills (such as machine learning, from decision trees to neural networks, image processing and natural language processing). You will have access to additional funding to support any specialised methodological or dataset training needed once the project is scoped and agreed.

During the main 12-month placement phase, alongside undertaking these specific research projects you will constructively engage across Whitehall, building effective working relationships and engaging with senior stakeholders to champion the value of data science. This will be supported through your embedded role within 10DS, including line management support. You will also be part of ADR UK’s research portfolio and receive support and access to their networks and platforms to shape and showcase your outputs to academic and non-academic audiences.

Additionally, you will be supported to network and collaborate with fellows in other government programmes (for example No.10 Innovation Fellows, ADR UK Research Fellows or ESRC’s wider cohort of policy fellows). Up to 25% of your time during the placement with 10DS and ONS will be reserved for activities that strengthen engagement between government and academia. Fellows can also apply to be supported for an additional period after the placement of up to three months to complete agreed knowledge exchange, publication and impact activity.

Objectives and expectations of the fellows

The objectives and expectations are to:

  • scope and lead research projects with the support of 10DS, ONS and ADR UK to ensure the most up-to-date and insightful data is analysed.
  • work closely with 10DS, the No.10 Policy Unit, the Prime Minister’s Implementation Unit, and department analysts to ensure alignment of priorities and that analysis is as robust and useful as possible in driving decisions
  • develop the data as a useful research resource for future users, for example through sharing and creating guidance and code
  • provide advice and peer review to other aspects of 10DS’s work
  • strengthen engagement between government and academia through activities such as:
    • connecting with related UKRI, ESRC and ADR UK research portfolios, acting as a pipeline for knowledge exchange between them and 10DS and ONS
    • publishing outputs from analysis produced, subject to clearance processes
    • knowledge exchange activities with academic institutions and other analytical and policy teams within government, including upskilling teams in cutting-edge data science techniques
  • support 10DS, ONS, ESRC and ADR UK in the evaluation of the fellowship programme and improvement of future schemes.

Benefits for fellows

These fellowships offer an exciting opportunity to develop your career and enhance your understanding of the use of data in government. Fellows will be uniquely positioned to build connections with the policymaking and data science community in government, as well as generate and share new knowledge and insights on effective policy collaboration and data analysis with the wider research community and with funders including ESRC and ADR UK.

As a successful fellow, your benefits will include:

  • opportunity to inform decision-making on the most pressing policy problems of our time using cutting edge methods
  • access to unique and novel data resources
  • a better understanding of government analysis, operations, policymaking, data usage, research-ready data sets and priority areas for research
  • ability to build your network of policy and analytical professionals within government
  • opportunity to raise the profile of linked data as a tool to inform policy
  • opportunity to become part of a cohort of academic researchers across government working to address complex policy questions
  • potential to influence future policy-academia collaborations
  • opportunity for dual publication across policy and academia, subject to clearance processes
  • support in securing data owner approval for your project.

During your placement, you will have line management and support from 10DS and ONS, and throughout your fellowship, you will also regularly engage with and receive support from ESRC and ADR UK.

In addition, if you are an early career researcher you will benefit from funded mentorship support from a more senior researcher in your organisation. Fellows will also be able to access funding for any additional project-specific training or mentorship identified during the inception phase.

Fellowship phases and milestones

Your fellowship award will last up to 18 months and cover:

  • inception phase for project set up, three months
  • placement with 10DS and ONS, 12 months
  • impact phase, up to three months.

Inception phase

The inception phase will commence from October 2021 for you to co-produce your project scope, gain data access and accreditations, and for security clearance.

Your expected time commitment during this period is up to 0.2 full-time equivalent (FTE). During this three-month period, you will remain based at your home institutions but will join in-person or virtual inception meetings or workshops with 10DS and ONS, subject to COVID restrictions.

Through close collaboration with 10DS and ONS, you will:

  • develop full project proposals, including data requirements
  • prepare, submit and secure approval for applications for secure access to data (SAD)
  • complete Researcher Accreditation System (RAS) forms if needed and any required Accredited Researcher training.

During this phase, you will also be able to apply for up to £10,000 (full economic cost) further funding to support additional project-specific travel and subsistence costs to access data, additional project-specific mentorship and/or specific data training requirements that were not included in your original application.

Placement with 10DS and ONS

You are expected to start your 12-month placement with 10DS and ONS in January 2022, once the project scope has been agreed, data secured and the opportunity requirements met (including security clearance). You can undertake this secondment full or part time (0.5 FTE minimum). Line management and support will be provided by 10DS and you will usually be expected to spend two days per month (pro rata) at the 10DS offices in London.

Fellows will also be embedded within a team in the ONS Data Science Campus or wider ONS, where appropriate for their project work, and may be required to spend additional time in an ONS-approved Safe Room (in Newport, Fareham, or London), or ESRC Safe Pods (various locations nationally), subject to project scope. During this period you will also be expected to take up opportunities for connection with ESRC and ADR UK.

Knowledge exchange and impact

After the placement completes, you will return to your home institution, and will be supported for an additional period to maximise knowledge exchange and impact through agreed wider engagement and publication activity. You can apply for funding to cover a period of up to three months at up to 0.2 FTE maximum commitment to undertake this activity.

Your plan for activities for this period will be further defined and agreed with 10DS, ONS, ESRC and ADR-UK during the first six months of the fellowship and you will be able to apply for up to £5,000 (full economic cost) additional funding to support these costs. Further details will be shared with successful applicants.

Outputs and reporting

Academic publication of analysis and code produced using ONS SRS linked data will be supported as part of or linked to the fellowship(s), subject to sign off by 10DS and the ONS SRS publication clearance process.

You will be expected to produce outputs for academic and non-academic audiences based on your analysis of administrative and survey data, as agreed during the inception phase. These may include:

  • short ‘Data Insights’ and other policy briefings detailing research findings for policy audiences
  • ‘Data Explained’ guides to summarise and record learnings for the benefit of future researchers
  • data visualisations
  • conference presentations.

Published outputs will be subject to clearance by No.10 and ONS.

Where appropriate, your outputs will be published on the ADR UK website and the ADR UK Communications team can also support you in the production of outputs including providing guidance and templates for ‘Data Insights’ and ‘Data Explained’.

In addition to standard ESRC reporting requirements, you may also be asked to submit additional information to support wider ESRC and ADR UK strategic objectives and scheme evaluation.

How to apply

Applications will be made through the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). To be able to do this your host organisation must be registered for Je-S, and you must hold a Je-S account. If you are unsure about this you should contact your research organisation’s research office for further guidance.

Please see the Je-S guidance attachment (PDF, 314 KB) for in-depth information about the application process.

When applying select:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: Fellowship
  • scheme: Research Fellowship
  • call/type/mode: ESRC ADR UK No 10 Data Science Fellowships 2021

Mandatory attachments:

  • case for support
  • CV, including one-page publication summary list
  • justification of resources
  • Head of Department statement
  • mentor CV (if applicable).

How we will assess your application

Assessment will have two stages. All applications will be assessed and shortlisted by a panel of academic and non-academic experts. A maximum of eight applicants will be invited to attend an interview with panel members.

Interviews are expected to take place at the end of July 2021 via an online communications platform. When the call closes, all applicants will be informed of the final interview dates and when we expect to inform you if you have been shortlisted. We expect the funding decision will be communicated by early August.

The panel will assess the quality of your written application and your interview performance against the following criteria:

  • understanding of the analytical needs of central government and an ability to grasp and respond to these effectively at pace
  • subject matter expertise in one or more of the cross-cutting government priorities, or understanding of how your expertise may be transferred and applied to topics such as these
  • expertise in and experience of applying data science techniques and methods, including working with novel data sets and assessing data quality and reliability
  • the ability to translate complex information and analysis into meaningful, easily understood narrative for a non-academic audience, verbally and in writing
  • understanding of the challenges and opportunities of co-production and collaboration including with non-academics
  • the ability to design and lead activity that supports effective knowledge exchange between research, policy and funder communities
  • value for money across all budget areas requested, including where relevant for wider institutional mentorship and support.

Contact details

The opportunity is managed by ESRC’s Public Policy and Engagement team who can be contacted at ESRCPolicyImpact@esrc.ukri.org.

Please disseminate this funding opportunity to your networks and contacts as appropriate.

Additional info

Partners

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Prime Minister’s Office enables the Prime Minister to deliver the government’s overall priorities and to communicate the government’s policies to Parliament, the public and international audiences.

From the Policy Unit and Press Office, Switchboard and Custodians, to the Events and Visits team and the world-class Private Office support, the diverse Downing Street team draws on varied expertise from across the Civil Service and beyond. The teams come together to deliver excellent service to the Prime Minister while also making No.10 a great place to work.

10 Data Science (10DS)

Formed in mid-2020, the Analytical Unit, called 10DS (‘10 Data Science’), has a remit to ensure key decisions are informed by data, analysis and evidence. We do this by:

  • enabling 10 Downing Street to apply cutting-edge data science techniques and utilise the best available evidence throughout the policy and decision-making process
  • working with partners across government to solve the most pressing policy challenges and transform the use of data and evidence in decision making.

We are a deeply committed, hard-working, and inclusive team, highly valuing collaboration and support, and widely networked within No.10 and central government. We are led by Downing Street’s Chief Analyst, with staff from diverse backgrounds and a range of analytical expertise including data science, economics, statistics, and evaluation science.

Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK)

Administrative Data Research UK is a partnership to transform the way researchers access the UK’s wealth of public sector data.

By joining up the abundance of administrative data already being created by government and public bodies across the UK, and making it available to approved researchers safely and securely, ADR UK is enabling vital research that has the potential to lead to better-informed policy decisions and more effective public services, in areas from improving education and healthcare to tackling crime.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The Office for National Statistics is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and its recognised national statistical institute. It is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels.

Through the ADR UK-funded Secure Research Service (SRS), the ONS also gives accredited researchers secure access to de-identified, unpublished microdata in order to work on research projects for the public good. In 2017, the ONS established the Data Science Campus, which supports data science research and delivery across government, and builds data science capability for the public good.

Data accreditation and access

Researcher accreditation

Only researchers accredited under the Digital Economy Act are able to access data in the SRS. To become an accredited researcher, Research Fellows will have to attend safe researcher training and successfully complete an assessment. Researchers can start the application process through the Research Accreditation Service (RAS) and successful applicants will be offered (if necessary) a priority place.

Project accreditation

Before accessing the data in the SRS, accredited researchers need their project approved by the independent Research Accreditation Panel (RAP). This will require agreement in principle from data owners for the use of their data, and researchers will need to demonstrate that the proposal is methodologically sound, has considered ethics and that the research is in the public good.

Once you have completed the training and RAP has been approved, your project will be given access to the data you requested in your own project space via the Secure Research Service.

Assured organisational connectivity to the secure research service

Researchers based in organisations that have an Assured Organisational Connectivity (AOC) agreement in place with ONS can access data in the Secure Research Service (SRS) from their employers’ offices (subject to data owner agreement). If you work in an organisation with no remote connectivity to the SRS, you can apply for an AOC agreement. To apply for an AOC agreement your institution will be required to complete the appropriate application form, which can be requested by emailing srs.connectivity@ons.gov.uk.

For further information see: Accessing secure research data as an accredited researcher – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

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