A Data Expedition: How Data can be a Team Sport

A few weeks back members from the Data & Analytics and Research & Citizen insight team attended their first ever ‘data expedition’ which was hosted in partnership by the Greater London Authority & 360Giving.

What was it?

The 'Expedition' brought together a range of skills and expertise into a single room to talk all things sports data – including those who hold data, policy makers, and data scientists.

Data Expeditions are quests to map uncharted territory, discover hidden stories, and solve unsolved mysteries in the Land of Data.  In a team you’ll tackle a problem, answer a question, or work on a project.  The expedition hosts help you get started, but then it’s up to you to decide where you go…
GLA and 360Giving were interested in understanding what existing data about (and from) London's sports sector can reveal, to help tackle issues in funding, inactivity & social integration. Some of the questions we explored included:

  • What are the characteristics of successful sports projects that bring together people from different genders/ethnicity/religion/social economic backgrounds/disabilities?
  • How do we identify the activities people would most like to do?
  • What are the barriers that people have in accessing desired activities?
  • What outcomes are being achieved through funding recreational sports?

What did we learn?

We discovered that the process of data analysis and exploration is non-linear. What does this mean? Well, working together in our groups, we concluded that data analysis does not always follow the pattern of ‘get’, ‘find’, ‘clean’, ‘analyse’, and then ‘present’.

Instead, the steps involved in the process of data analysis should be flexible and interchangeable. For example, you may need to ‘get’ & ‘analyse’ then and go back to ‘find’ depending on what you uncover.

A number of people learnt about new datasets, developed new analytical skills, and discovered some useful online tools. Some interesting findings from the day were:

  • 3 boroughs (Wandsworth, Camden and Westminster) receive 45% of the total sports funding currently shared on 360 Giving.
  • 4 boroughs spend a significant amount more per 1,000 population on sport provision compared to the rest. These are Camden, Wandsworth, Southwark and Hackney.
  • Having a high number of sports facilities in a borough does not necessarily mean a boroughs population is more active.
  • The most ethnically diverse LSOAs (Lower Layer Super Output Areas) across London have a lower sports participation average (55%) than that of the boroughs in which they are situated (58%) and London as a whole (64%)

What did we take away?

The potential of data is massive and the expedition demonstrated why Essex should continue to embrace data science. Yes, data can sometimes have its complexities and may not always provide the answers that we want, but that is okay!

This is a great incentive for Essex to adopt an inclusive approach when it comes to research and data science. Data is a team sport which means this a discipline which is not only exclusive to ‘tech-savvy’ analysts. Anyone can get involved in data exploration as the participation of people with non-technical skills is valued as much as those with technical.

At its best, data science helps to support the evidence-based culture we have at Essex and enables us to arrive at intelligible, robust decisions that contribute to improving our services.

What next….

Data expeditions are a great way to develop skills, build partnerships and gain insights into what data can really tell you. It was excellent to see how data science can be such a team sport, which is a concept we are keen to trial in Essex. A multi-disciplinary team is essential for data science projects and having such a diverse range of speciality skills and experiences is crucial for success.

So for any ideas on current and future data challenges facing Essex and its partners, please suggest in the comments box below, or contact Nicki Mallett or Frank Newton. And watch this space as we start to set up our first Essex Data Expedition!

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