colourful graphic with DataFest logo in top left corner

What we learnt from this year’s DataFest

Blog post by Katherine Falconer, Head of Information and Analysis.

March was a very busy month for colleagues working in data at Registers of Scotland, with active participation in a range of events as part of The Datalab’s annual Datafest programme. The programme has now expanded to a fortnight, and includes a range of fringe events run by data organisations as well as the core conference.

How we got involved

As strong supporters of #DataTogether — the theme of this year’s festival — we joined forces with the Scottish Government, National Records of Scotland, and NHS Public Health Institute to run a set of events in Scottish cities to showcase the work we do. A range of attendees from across the statutory, private and academic sectors came to Aberdeen, Stirling and Dundee to hear from presenters from our land and property data team (Sam Dickinson and Ailsa Robertson), and ScotLIS (Grant Burnett, Ruth Baxter and Calum Shepherd), with other colleagues manning stands.

We’re keen to continue spreading the word about what data Registers of Scotland has, and how we might be able to help. Collaboration between different industry sectors and a range of experts is key to driving innovation in data. Ailsa Robertson, one of our colleagues, said how beneficial she felt attendance of the event was to the wider organisation. ‘It definitely was useful in raising awareness of Registers and of ScotLIS. Many people had never heard of ScotLIS either in a professional or personal capacity so it was good to get more information out there.’

Chatting about careers

Another important event for us was DataTalent in Glasgow – a hectic day of talking to students about the work we do and type of roles we have. It was also an opportunity to talk about civil service careers, and the public sector analytical community that RoS is a part of, along with Scottish Government and others; data for public good being an important part of our ethos.

Capability building was a strong theme at DataFest this year. Demand for data skills is ever-growing, and technology and needs ever-changing. With the City Deal investment in tech and data to be made in coming years, Edinburgh is to become the ‘data capital of Europe’.

Three RoS members of staff at our stand at DataFest 2019

Networking with the wider community

The round up to the programme was Data Summit, a two-day conference with several hundred international participants, giving us an excellent opportunity to network and raise Registers of Scotland’s profile in the data world. It was inspiring to hear from noteworthy women in the field all working towards developing skills and capacity, such as:

  • Maggie Philbin who set up Teentech
  • Sue Black, behind TechMums (with her own journey from an adverse childhood to becoming a professor of computing and setting up the very successful Saving Bletchley Park campaign)
  • Susan Scurlock who set up StatWars to promote data science within schools.

The programme also included a discussion with the First Minister, through which she underlined her strong personal commitment to using data well to solve problems and drive innovation, saying that, ‘Any government anywhere in the world that is serious about improving lives for people has to be serious about data.’

Two members of RoS staff holding at '#DataTogether' banner at DataFest 2019

Developing new thinking

All organisations need to keep developing their thinking on how to make the most of the data we have available. We were intrigued to hear about opportunities to refresh and develop our ways of thinking through collaboration with universities and students. This can take many forms – from relevant university courses to collaboration with students through work placements to bring together problem solving, creativity, innovation and practice learning.

Organisations such as CodeClan are now launching new immersion courses in data analysis too, giving more people skills and career development opportunities. This sparked a lot of conversation at our stand about how we can grow data talent at here at Registers.

All in all the programme was really valuable in raising awareness of the great work that we deliver in the field of data and getting inspiration from other exciting organisations striving to enhance the contribution that data brings.

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