North East blog

ANNE Summer Event Showcases the Strength of Analytics in the North East

Following a successful jaunt down to Darlington in February, Analyst Network North East (ANNE) made a storming return back to Newcastle for its June event. The bright and modern Urban Sciences Building of Newcastle University provided the setting, with more than 70 delegates in attendance representing over 20 different organisations. The event certainly proved to be an ANNE Summer Spectacular!

After a few minutes to admire the stunning atrium and peruse stands from our sponsor, the OR Society, as well as from our friends at LARIA NE (thanks for the cookies!) and the RSS, Aleks Bobrowska kicked off the event with a quick update on ANNE’s growing network. Membership is now up above 200. There are links to over 30 organisations spread across the public, private and academic sectors and our social media presence continues to expand. It seems safe to say that ANNE is in fine fettle as it continues to grow and provide networking opportunities for analysts across the region.

The first talk was given jointly by Newcastle University academics Jennine Jonczyk and Luke Smith, who introduced us to the Urban Observatory. We learnt that Newcastle is now bristling with over 600 sensors, measuring 58 variables to allow researchers to understand better how the city ticks. This allows the Urban Observatory to monitor a wide range of environmental indicators from air quality, to water quality, biodiversity and traffic. All of the data is freely available - so there are plenty of opportunities there to get involved! (Oh, and just in case you’re worried about Big Brother, we were assured that humans are reduced to nothing more than anonymous faceless rectangles. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that is less worrying…)

Next up, Nadine Morrisroe from the NHS Business Services Authority spoke about an award winning data lab tasked with saving the NHS over one billion pounds. The lab tackles some hugely impactful issues - such as ensuring that antibiotics are prescribed sensibly to avoid contributing unnecessarily to the emergence of “super-bugs” and how to identify fraud. We also heard about the NHS’s quest to minimise waste by switching to mostly e-prescriptions. Nadine showed us how analysis can identify which business areas need targeting to achieve this aim and how text analytics are being used to measure people’s satisfaction with prepaid prescription services.

Following the first session’s talks, we split into small groups for a networking session. Within each group, attendees were encouraged to have a five-minute chat with someone they hadn’t met before and then rotate around at the sound of a bell. Many interesting discussions ensued, many of which spilled over into the coffee break – surely a good sign of connections being forged!

After refreshments, Colin Gillespie from Jumping Rivers, gave a discussion on the benefits of open source software (OSS). He addressed commonly held fears that OSS is less secure than its paid-for competitors, whilst extolling its virtues - not least the huge benefit of economy of scale in terms of users and contributors. Focusing on “R”, examples were given of how OSS can be hugely beneficial to statisticians and we heard that the CRAN repository of R modules continues to grow at pace to provide an ever-expanding toolbox for the savvy analyst to exploit.

The final talk was given by Sarah Sharp from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), who told the engaging tale of her career in analysis (so far!). Having performed a wide variety of roles spread across the public, private and academic sectors, Sarah has a wealth of experience from which to draw valuable advice. At the end of her talk, Sarah imparted some of her learned wisdom. There were too many tips to fully do justice in this short review, but one stood out as particularly pertinent – “It’s all about relationships”. Bringing together analysts to build relationships and add to the vibrancy, creativity and general success of the analytic professions in the North East is what ANNE is all about, so this provided a very fitting end to another successful ANNE event!

Next up for ANNE is our Autumn Event, which will be hosted by Durham University Business School on Wednesday 3 October 2018. Keep an eye on your inboxes for further details, or if you would like to connect with us you can find us on Twitter @AnalystNetNE or join the group on LinkedIn ‘Analyst Network North East’. We hope to see you in Durham!

Michael Hogan

Operation Research Analyst, Valuation Office Agency