Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Professional bodies draw up data science standards for a post-Covid world

Rebecca George


Bodies including Swindon-based BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT are backing the establishment of professional standards for the data science industry.

The move comes at a time when members of the public are being asked to share private data in a way never seen before, as public health officials attempt to control the coronavirus pandemic.

While the skills of data scientists are increasingly in demand, there is currently no professional framework for the field, and it is now more important than ever that those in the field of data science maintain the highest ethical and professional standards so the public can have confidence that their data is being used ethically, stored safely and analysed robustly, say professional bodies.

Data science is the collection, recording, storing, and analysing data to effectively extract useful information and predict future behaviour.

In industry it is used in credit scoring, fraud prevention, and in up-selling and customer product recommendations. It is also used in machine learning – the success of self-driving cars will depend on the effective use of user data.

In medicine big data can predict how disease outbreaks will occur and behave, and determine the effectiveness of medicines. It is also being used to improve the speed and effectiveness of track and trace solutions.

The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) will be leading on the work along with the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), the Operational Research Society (ORS), the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the Royal Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), to collaboratively shape and develop the data science profession.

Starting with existing academic qualifications, the work will progress on to current professional standards. The group will work with universities to ensure that educational programmes deliver the right skills and knowledge for those looking to enter the profession.

Rebecca George, president of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: “People are increasingly aware of data and how it is being used.

“As BCS president, I’m very encouraged by this collaboration to develop data science as a profession.

“Data is a key part of our daily lives and we must ensure those using it are working ethically and to the highest standards.”

Stian Westlake, chief executive of the Royal Statistical Society, added: “You wouldn’t let a doctor perform heart surgery or an architect design your house without being confident they were working to the highest standards.

“We believe that people who deal with our data should follow equally high standards - and gain recognition for doing so.

“Today’s move is an important step to professionalising the field, and helping us harness data for the public good.”