The Data Science Accelerator programme was established in 2015, with the aim of building data science capability across the public sector.
Since its launch, the programme has welcomed 170 analysts and aspiring data scientists from 83 organisations, and has won an award for its impact on increasing data capability.
On the Accelerator every participant is assigned a dedicated mentor. This mentor, usually an experienced data scientist, helps the participants on their data science projects over the 3-month-long programme.
We spoke to 3 alumni from the Accelerator who have successfully moved into data science roles, and have now developed from mentees to mentors. They told us how the Accelerator helped them, spoke about their experiences as mentors, and gave advice for any prospective mentors or mentees.
Katie Davidson - Data Science Lead, Department of Health and Social Care
I applied to the programme when I was on the statistical Fast Stream as I was interested in the possibilities of data science. The Accelerator has been pivotal in taking me to my current role, where I have responsibility for developing the data science infrastructure and capability across the department. In my job application, I was able to use my time on the Accelerator as a strong example for my data science competencies.
On the Accelerator, my mentor’s support allowed me to do data cleaning and preparation to combine many data sets (which hadn’t been possible before), exploratory analysis and visualisations, and develop a multi-layer mixed effects time series model. I now use these skills in my current role.
Being a mentor has been incredibly rewarding and fascinating. I was able to advise my mentee on how to approach and position his problem, how to structure his work, where to look and what to google - every data scientist’s secret.
Katie's advice for participants and mentors
If you are a participant, ask questions and talk to as many people as possible - make the most of them while you have regular access to them. For mentors, do not underestimate your own abilities. We are always learning and data science is always evolving. So far, this experience has been incredibly rewarding as I get to help people do amazing things and learn more myself.
Arturas Eidukas - Data Scientist, Office for National Statistics
I was working as an Economist in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and applied to the Accelerator as I was interested in programming and data analysis.
The Accelerator was an intense, but ultimately amazing experience, and it allowed me to shift to my current role. It demystified the experience of applying models to data to get some reasonable insight.
The knowledge I brought back was extremely useful - I shared it wider and helped my team pick up programming languages R and Python as part of our departmental transformation agenda, which is something I look back on with pride. All this work helped me transition to my current role.
Mentoring has been a great experience; you get to see and support someone else's learning, but also you learn a lot yourself as you can choose which applications you can provide support on.
Arturas' advice for participants and mentors
For both participants and mentors, make sure you or your mentee have access to the data and are allowed to use it. And remember, that while the programme is for 3 months, you are only working on it for 12 days as you only have one day a week dedicated to it.
Matthew Dray - Data Scientist, Government Digital Service
I was on the statistical Fast Stream at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs when I was accepted onto the Accelerator.
The programme was the perfect opportunity to expand my skills and broaden my career prospects. It gave me the time to focus on a single project, the technology to access the tools and techniques I needed and hands-on training from a dedicated data scientist mentor.
I was able to transfer my skills from the Accelerator to my everyday work and share what I’d learnt with analysts in my department and beyond. The Accelerator was a springboard for my promotion to a data scientist role.
In my role of mentor, it was extremely rewarding to watch my mentee grow so rapidly over the programme and I also developed more confidence in my data science abilities.
Matthew's advice for participants and mentors
It’s important to always think of user needs and keep iterating. Make sure you show the thing as often as possible to get valuable feedback from your users, mentors and fellow participants.
If you’re a mentor, meet with your mentee before the programme starts so you can help focus the project and understand their needs. Be present and guide your mentee, but don't take control.
Don’t undermine yourself - you’re here to learn so be bold and believe in yourself. Keep going and plan for how you’ll share your new skills and improve the thing you’ve made.
Applications for the Data Science Accelerator are now open and close on 3 June 2019. Apply on the Data Science Accelerator page.
Find out more about what happens on the programme and how participants are chosen. You can also see examples of previous projects in our project directory.
The Data Science Accelerator programme is backed by the Government Digital Service, ONS, the Government Office for Science and the analytical professions of statistics, economics, operational research and social research.