Fri, July 23, 2021


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Alliance formed to create new professional standards for data science

A new alliance has been formed to create industry-wide professional standards for data science. ‘The Alliance for Data Science Professionals’ is defining the standards needed to ensure an ethical and well-governed approach so the public, organisations and governments can have confidence in how their data is used.

While the skills of data scientists are increasingly in demand, there is currently no professional framework for those working in the field. These new industry-wide standards, which will be finalised by the Autumn, look to address current issues, such as data breaches, the misuse of data in modelling and bias in artificial intelligence. They can give people confidence that their data is being used ethically, stored safely and analysed robustly.

The Alliance members, who initially convened in July 2020, are the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, The Operational Research Society, the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, The Alan Turing Institute and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). They are supported by The Royal Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society.

Since convening, the Alliance has worked with volunteers and stakeholders to develop draft standards for individuals, standards for universities seeking accreditation of their courses and a certification process that will enable both individuals and education providers to gain recognition based on skills and knowledge within data science.

Governed by a memorandum of understanding, the Alliance is committed to:

• Defining the standards of professional competence and behaviour expected of people who work with data that impacts lives and livelihoods. These include data scientists, data engineers, data analysts and data stewards.

• Using an open-source process to maintain and update the standards.

• Delivering these standards as data science certifications offered by the Alliance members to their professional members, with processes to hold certified members accountable for their professional status in this area.

• Using these standards as criteria for Alliance members to accredit data science degrees, and data science modules of associated degrees, as contributing to certification.

• Creating a single searchable public register of certified data science professionals.

Gavin Blackett, Executive Director of the Operational Research Society, said: “The Operational Research Society is delighted to be an integral part of the Alliance. Its work is critical to the way data scientists and their work will be perceived in the future. This is important for society as a whole.”

Stian Westlake, CEO of the Royal Statistical Society, said: “Data science can be a powerful tool for businesses and governments. But just like established fields like engineering or medicine, it needs good standards to ensure it is used wisely and well. The Alliance will play an important role in setting standards for those working in data science to help organisations make the most of cutting-edge new approaches, and so that we can all have confidence that our data is in good hands.”

Paul Fletcher, CEO - BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: “We are excited to be working with our alliance partners to define and manage standards in the burgeoning area of data science. The pandemic period has further demonstrated that data science provides significant value in creating insight and improving decision making.”

Dr Nira Chamberlain, President of the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, said: “The IMA fully recognise the Alliance of Data Science Professionals and wish to fully support any member who wishes to pursue this excellent career path.”

Matthew Forshaw, National Skills Lead at The Alan Turing Institute, said: “We are delighted to contribute to the valuable work of the Alliance, to ensure data science and AI training meets the needs of the current and future workforce. The Alliance’s members are ideally positioned to address ambiguities around data skills definitions, ensure the consistent application of standards across industries, and maintain these standards to accurately represent emerging skills needs. The Alliance will play a significant role in establishing and upholding the professional values necessary to ensure ethical, fair and safe professional practices around data and AI.”

Dr Peter Thompson FREng FIOP FRSC CEng, CEO of NPL, said: “We provide confidence in data from physical measurements as a leading National Laboratory and the UK's National Metrology Institute. Working alongside world-leading Learned Societies is an excellent opportunity to support us in providing this confidence.”