The Alan Turing Institute and the University of Warwick hosted the 2019 DSSG initiative as an establishment year. The summer fellowship ran from 10 June to 28 August, culminating in a closing event at The Shard in London.
Project partners and challenges
DSSG project partners get access to a selected pool of highly qualified and motivated fellows to work on the project challenges under the guidance of experienced technical mentors and project managers. The previous DSSG projects hosted by other universities have made meaningful contributions to society by implementing cutting-edge data science and AI technology. The five challenges addressed by DSSG Summer Fellows in 2019 at the Turing and Warwick are listed below.
Project Challenge: Understanding and reducing inequities in transportation in the West Midlands
West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is a cluster of 18 local authorities and 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), collaborating on projects ranging from transport, jobs growth, industrial strategy, public service reform etc. to deliver their vision of a flourishing West Midlands. As the region grows in both economic and demographic terms, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure high quality and equal access to transportation. The goal of the project is to make transportation access in the West Midlands region fairer. The data collected by the project partner indicates that there is a problem of areas being isolated from public transport lines, with poor access to private vehicles and a congested highway network - this is particularly prevalent in areas with high minority and low-income populations.
Although the partner has some insight in identifying areas that are experiencing such isolation, the volume, scope, and extent of the problem has not been analysed and quantified. The project involves finding a better way to measure equity of access to transportation services, and the goal is to create a data product which allows policy makers to analyse where disadvantaged people live (if any), whether the current system is biased against any particular demographic group. The aforementioned product would therefore offer insights on how to make transport better and fairer.
Project Challenge: Increasing the efficiency of creating meta-reviews in biomedical research
Cochrane is a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and people interested in health. Cochrane is a non-for-profit organization that produces systematic reviews of healthcare interventions using the best available evidence generated through research to make it easier to inform decisions about health. Doctors face daily decisions about the best care for their patients, and their own clinical experience can be enhanced using evidence-based medicine, such as through clinical trial data.
One of the most robust ways of synthesizing research evidence across healthcare trials is through a systematic review. Cochrane systematic reviews provide high-quality, relevant synthesized research evidence to decision-makers at the international, national and local level, to make sure citizens receive the medical and social care based on the best available evidence. While this is a rigorous approach, it can take up to three years to produce a major systematic review, which may in some cases limit our ability to use up-to-date research to guide decision-making. The goal of this project is to build a model that is capable of triaging new studies into the appropriate systematic review subjects, in order to optimize a very laborious and time-consuming process of identifying relevant studies.
Organisation: Homeless Link
Project Challenge: Improving outcomes for rough sleepers in the UK
Since 2012, the charity Homeless Link has been running StreetLink, a programme that helps connect rough sleepers to local services in England and Wales. StreetLink acts as a bridge between members of the public (who provide referrals) and local authorities. It provides a platform to find rough sleepers, and then connects them to relevant services that local authorities provide in order to meet their needs (immediate shelter, health assessments, etc).
Because this service relies on public reporting, referral quality remains a challenge: there are many instances where services are deployed, only to be unable to find the rough sleeper who has been referred. Homeless Link tries to identify actionable insights about homeless people based on the entire dataset e.g. by identifying outliers or trends, or by predicting where homeless people are likely to be in need of assistance. The goal of the project is to reduce the time it takes to find new rough sleepers and to improve access to services for certain vulnerable individuals.
Organisation: DNCP, Paraguay
Project Challenge: Reducing corruption in public procurement processes
Public contracts are essential in the delivery of goods and services that people care about and depend on, such as schools, medicines, and roads. Currently, more than 400 public institutions are using Paraguay’s National Directorate of Public Contracting (DNCP) online platform to publish their public tender processes, which results in more than 13,000 processes every year.
Despite the enormity of what is at stake, or perhaps because of it, public contracting is at high risk of being involved with cases of corruption, mismanagement and secrecy. Scandals from failed contracting processes still persist: cost overruns in the procurement of goods and services, tender documents addressed to companies previously involved in contract breaches, conflict of interest in awarding bids, signs of collusion etc.
There is a very rich information that has so far remained underutilised for public spending design, monitoring, and evaluation. DNCP is looking to apply data science techniques to formulate better, evidence-based public procurement policies. The goal of this project is to find and reduce potential anomalies in public tender documents and improve the quality of public procurement.
Project Challenge: Data driven prioritisation of independent fostering agency inspections
Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. These providers include children’s homes and Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) that care for children. Using a range of data both held by Ofsted and publicly available, the goal of this project is to build a risk model that can help Ofsted to prioritise its inspections of IFAs.
Accenture The Dock is a proud sponsor of the Turing’s DSSG Internship programme. The Dock have provided training for the project teams in methods of “conscious decision making”, looking at the consequences of decisions – beyond their intended outcomes. Additional technical expertise was also provided, tailored to the individual projects.
The Turing also thanks Microsoft for providing Cloud support and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for providing technical support.