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Falling behind the data revolution 


Lord David Willetts, Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation and former Universities Minister, on the danger for Britain and British social science of falling behind the big data revolution.


I think Whitehall departments are not totally clear what’s in it for them. They can see that some academics might do a research project that will get them a published article, but they don’t see what’s in it for them.

I don’t think they understand the danger for Britain and British social science of falling behind the big data revolution if we’re not using this kind of data

I always cite to my old friends and colleagues in government the example of the work that people like Raj Chetti do in the US to understand social mobility, whereas a lot of the British social mobility debate is still bogged down in the 1968 and 1970 cohort studies.

I think social scientists in Britain have done an amazing job of getting so many different research projects and angles out of these two data sets but really there should be so much more.

But I don’t that social scientists have necessarily been ambitious enough in communicating how we could understand changes in our society better if they were able to access the data, proper data held more ambitiously in the research network.

Page last updated: 24/07/2018