Government can’t afford experienced data scientists, committee told

The government is struggling to recruit experienced data scientists – because it can’t afford them.

This revelation came from by Paul Maltby, director of data at the Government Digital Service (GDS), who admitted to the Science and Technology Committee that Whitehall has not had any difficulty recruiting data scientists at an early stage in their careers but that “affording people later in their career is somewhat difficult”.

The Committee, which is looking into big data use in government, was also told that retention of staff could be difficult as staff are likely to take their experience to the private sector where salaries are higher.



Maltby did however share some more positive news, which is that existing analysts have successfully been on a development scheme where they were taught to use some of the data scientists’ tools and techniques.

The ultimate aim for the GDS, according to Maltby, is to spread data science capability, knowledge and skills across the breadth of Whitehall.

“A world where government departments and public agencies had already fixed their data infrastructure in a way that made it interoperable and fluid so that they had fabulous data sites and capabilities integrated within the decision-making processes and services for citizens as a matter of course would be a fabulous thing, and it is something we are aiming towards,” he told the committee.

The committee’s Big Data Dilemma report states that UK businesses could struggle to grow the big data sector if the shortage of big data skills is not strategically addressed.

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