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.
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.