Network chair Beth Simone Noveck and the GovLab’s Timi Lewis and Sam DeJohn published a new piece in Public Sector Digest addressing the need for data science-skills training within the public sector. “Managing Through Uncertainty: Why Public Servants Should Embrace Data Science” outlines how knowledge on understanding and properly utilizing data can assist in policy-making decisions, including on the Trump Administration’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
The article introduces GovLab’s online video lecture series, “Solving Public Problems With Data,” which offers guidance on how one can use data science and analytics to begin to tackle social challenges. In the free series, leading data scientists from a range of organizations deliver their takes on how to utilize data for public good and in what ways data analytics can serve the everyday work of institutions everywhere.
The piece also touches on several other training programs—including the Coleridge Initiative, the University of Chicago’s Data Science for Social Good Fellowship, the Institute on Governance in Ottawa, Coursera, EdX and GovEx data science courses— that are designed to help professionals in the private and public sectors, public officials, computer scientists, institutions, and even aspiring data scientists to better understand how data can be used for social change and how focusing on data and computer science skills can improve policy making.
These programs, in one way or another, are all responses to the growing demand for and desire of current public officials and related professionals to have a better grasp on data analysis and its potential for public service.
Noveck, Lewis and DeJohn argue:
“Governments realize they do not need to start from scratch when it comes to closing the gap in demand and supply of professionals with data skills. Instead of exhausting a search for data scientists with an interest in solving public problems, they can refocus on empowering their existing pool of professionals to use data to improve decision-making and policy-making.”
“…public servants are called upon to conduct data analysis to better understand and communicate potential implications. Data will be at the center of how practitioners proceed with the next steps, making data literacy crucial for crafting policy based on evidence despite the political headwinds. Of equal importance is the need for these data specialists to possess the discipline, creativity, and experience to apply these data skills, making public entrepreneurs the optimal candidates for training.”