British academy

The ‘Big Data’ Debate

Monday 5 November 2012, 6 - 7.30pm followed by a reception
Venue: The British Academy 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Panel Discussion jointly organised by SAGE Publications Ltd and the British Academy, forming part of the 2012 ESRC Festival of Social Science

What opportunities does 'Big Data' offer to the social sciences? What challenges are there, what skills, training and resources are needed? And what are the wider implications for public scrutiny and debate? In this panel discussion arranged by SAGE and the British Academy, hear funders, researchers, civil servants and media explore these challenging topics.

Chair:
Polly Toynbee
is a political and social commentator for the Guardian. Previously she was the BBC's Social Affairs Editor. Her most recent book, written with David Walker, is Unjust Rewards. Her previous books include: Hard Work: Life in Low Pay Britain; Hospital (on the NHS); Lost Children (about adoption); and two books auditing Labour's first and second terms, also written with David Walker. She has won the George Orwell Prize and the British Press Awards Columnist of the Year. 

About the Speakers:

Professor Paul Boyle has been Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) since September 2010. He was previously Head of the School of Geography and Geosciences at the University of St Andrews. His research focussed on population and health geography, and he was Director of the ESRC-funded Longitudinal Studies Centre.  

Professor Harvey Goldstein FBA, is Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol and a leading expert on league tables. A chartered statistician, he has been editor of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A) and was awarded the Society's Guy Medal in Silver in 1998. He was elected a member of the International Statistical Institute in 1987, and a Fellow of the British Academy in 1996. Harvey is also a member of the Academy's Advisory Group for its Languages and Quantitative Skills (L&QS) programme.

Paul Woobey is the Chief Information Officer (CIO), Director of the Strategy and Standards Directorate, Head of the IT Profession and Senior Information Risk Owner of the Office of National Statistics. In each of these roles Paul represents the department at UK government and international levels to provide an Information Technology and Methodology Service which is targeted at the needs of citizens and businesses.
The role covers Information Technology strategy, solutions and delivery focusing on quality and best practice in relation to all aspects of IT and methodology. Since March 2012, the creation of the Directorate brought together the methodologists who design the systems with the IT teams that build and maintain them, with a view to supporting the ONS development of  innovative statistics which are of good quality and fit for purpose.

Dr Farida Vis is a Research Fellow in the Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield who has been part of the Guardian newspaper's groundbreaking Reading the Riots project - part of the team that examined 2.5 million riot tweets. She is also co-author of the Data Journalism Handbook. Her research focuses on the challenges of collecting social media and other data, and on analysing data, tool sharing and ethics. She is completing a methods text book for Sage, entitled Researching Social Media, co-written with computer scientist Mike Thelwall.

In 2011, the British Academy launched its own programme in support of quantitative skills in the humanities and social sciences. Working with key stakeholders such as the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC, the programme is delivered through a variety of funding, policy and other activities. The programme seeks to both build capacity and to demonstrate the value of quantitative skills for the health and wellbeing of the education and research base, the individual, UK competitiveness, and for society at large.


Media Partner:
Times Higher Education