If the last year or two has taught us anything, it’s the importance of working together. We’ve seen first-hand how sharing knowledge and expertise can help deal with the most difficult of challenges.
However, if you work with data, whether you’re a data scientist, a data management expert, involved in data sharing or just use data as part of your day job, this is sometimes easier said than done. Many of us work in organisations where we’re the only data expert in our field, if not data in general. However, how often have you wished for a chance to speak to like-minded people about the issues you’re facing, get some advice and possibly even test out your ideas? Well the good news is that in Wales we have an abundance of data people, perhaps the less good news is that we’re probably not as joined up as we could be. We want that to change.
So, what’s to be done?
Earlier this year, whilst developing the Digital Strategy for Wales, we brought together a range of data experts and data leaders. Whilst the focus was on developing the strategy, it became evident how useful it was for people from across the public sector to come together from different sectors to discuss common data issues that we’re all facing.
We were not alone in this thinking, with colleagues in Data Cymru also of the same opinion. So together we started to consider how we could bring, not only the data leaders from across Wales together, but the wider data community. Obviously this is easier said than done when we think about data in its entirety and the different areas of expertise.
The best solution seemed to be a two pronged approach; an overarching group of data leaders covering the more strategic work alongside a network of communities focussing on specific areas. Something along the lines of the following:
The overarching group, which we’ve named the Wales Data Leaders Network, has just been established and recently held its first meeting. In a nutshell, the aim of this group will be to act as forum for data leaders with the aim of improving how data is managed, used and shared. In doing so it is hoped that they will provide clear direction to public bodies in Wales, take forward particular projects on a cross-sectoral basis or recommend solutions to problems we’re encountering. At the first meeting we discussed the current consultation on data protection reform, and the implications of the Inclusive Data Taskforce.
In terms of the data communities, the plan is for these to focus on specific areas such as geospatial data, data standards, open data etc. We understand there will be people actively working in these areas as well as those who are just keen to know more so we will need to take this into account when establishing the various communities. We also recognise that for these communities to work and be sustainable, we all need to work collaboratively. One way we hope to do this is through different organisations facilitating the different communities.
What do we need from you?
Well as you can imagine none of this will work without your involvement, whether that’s sitting on the Data Leaders Network, participating in a data community or even facilitating one. This is about us all coming together and working together. As the saying goes, “you get out what you put in”.
In the first instance we’d really appreciate if you could let us know your thoughts on the following questions about data communities by emailing: Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Are there any specific data communities you think we need (the image above has a few suggestions)?
- What data groups or communities are you aware of that already exist?
- What data communities should we focus on setting up first – perhaps give us your top three?
- Would you be willing to facilitate a data community (come on, you know you want to)? If so, which one?
Also please feel free to drop us a line if you have any other thoughts or suggestions about how you think we can all work together better on all things data. Or if you think you are a data leader in Wales who feels they haven’t been included in any of this, do please get in touch.