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First cohort of data science professionals certified by AfDSP

The Alliance for Data Science Professionals has certified its first cohort, with the imprimatur of the UK’s national statistician, Ian Diamond

The Alliance for Data Science Professionals (AfDSP) has certified its first tranche of data scientists.

The Alliance, launched in 2021, comprises six organisations: the Royal Statistical Society; BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT; the Operational Research Society; the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications; the Alan Turing Institute; and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

The AfDSP’s member organisations have developed the standards together. The BCS reportedly did some earlier work on standards with the Royal Statistical Society, and called for higher ethical and professional standards in algorithmic development to ensure public trust in September 2020, following the exams debacle that hit UK education during that year’s cycle of A-levels, GCSEs and Scottish Highers.

The 13 data scientists who have met the standards agreed by the six are being recognised at ceremony at the Royal Society this evening (12 July 2022). 

One is Sophie Carr, founder and owner of analytics company Bays Consulting, who said in a statement: “It is a huge privilege to be part of the first cohort to be recognised by an alliance of learned societies for the work I am involved in. Data science impacts across society, and it is wonderful we can now show we are working ethically, safely and professionally.”

In the same statement, issued on behalf of the Alliance by the BCS, national statistician Ian Diamond said: “In recent years, there has been exponential growth in the use of data science in the public sector. 

“Innovations in data science can reap great rewards and enable better use of data in decision-making and analysis that can benefit everyone – as the Office for National Statistics’ Data Science Campus has recently shown on topics as diverse as the cost of living and tracking the busyness of urban centres in real-time using machine learning.

“To this end, data scientists have never been more needed or more helpful in delivering for the public good. I am delighted to see the launch of the Alliance for Data Science Professionals.”

Rachel Hilliam, AfDSP chairperson and vice-president for professional affairs at the Royal Statistical Society, said the standards would help build public trust in data scientists. 

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“It’s fantastic that this first cohort of candidates has successfully completed our new standards – a validation of their expertise, ethics and professionalism,” she said.

“But this is just the beginning. We would like to see this level of quantifiable professionalism become the accepted norm and essential for ongoing career development in the sector, ensuring that our data is in safe hands.”

Mayank Prakash, president of the BCS, said: “Data science is the foundation of the upcoming era of AI and machine learning. This will inspire confidence as we use technology to solve our biggest challenges, such as sustainability and climate security, health and longevity, food and water, and peace and literacy. 

“Data scientists work across many different disciplines, and it is fantastic that the Alliance brings together professional standards to ensure ethical and well-governed data.”

Paul Glendinning, president of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, said mathematics underpins much of data science. “Therefore, a framework of industry-wide standards for data science professions is of great importance to the IMA, and that is why we are founding members of the Alliance,” he said.  

Matt Forshaw, senior adviser for skills at the Alan Turing Institute and reader in data science at Newcastle University, said: “The Alliance is already playing a significant role in establishing and upholding the professional values necessary to ensure ethical, fair and safe professional practices around data and AI. 

“Together, the Alliance will maintain the high standards required to work in a field crucial to understanding important issues like tracking the spread of diseases and the impact of climate change.”

Stian Westlake, chief executive of the RSS, added: “The first cohort of data scientists to receive this award are true trailblazers. The standard they have met is a powerful signal of their technical skill, quantitative expertise and professional values.”

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