Fast and {furrr}-ious: real time economic monitoring using R

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Mango’s ‘Meet-Up’ at Big Data London on 22nd September features guest speaker Adam Hughes, Data Scientist for The Bank of England, whose remit involves working with incredibly rich datasets, feeding into strategic decision-making on monetary policy. You can read about Adam’s incredibly interesting data remit and his team’s journey through Covid-19, in this short Q&A.

Can you tell us about your interest in data and your role at Bank of England?

Working at the Bank it’s hard not to be interested in data! So much of what we do as an organisation is data driven, with access to some incredibly rich datasets enabling interesting analysis. In Advanced Analytics, we leverage a variety of data science skills to support policy-making and facilitate the effective use of big, complex and granular data sets. As a data scientist, I get involved in all of this, working across the data science workflow.

What’s the inspiration for your talk  – effectively data science at speed?

As with so much recently – Covid. With how fast things have been moving and changing, traditional data sources that policymakers were relying on weren’t being updated fast enough to reflect the situation.

Can you tell us about your data team’s journey through covid-19 and the impact it has had?

In a recent survey, the Bank of England sought to understand how Covid has affected the adoption and use of ML and DS across UK Banks. Half of the banks surveyed reported an increase in the importance of ML and DS as a result of the pandemic. Covid created a lot of demand for DS skills and expertise within the Bank of England too. Initially this led to some long hours, but it was motivating and generally rewarding to work on something so clearly important. Working remotely 100% of the time was a challenge at first, but generally the transition away from the office has been remarkably smooth in terms of day-to-day working (though there are still disadvantages due to the lack of face-to-face contact). As outputs have subsequently been developed and shared widely in the organisation, they have been an excellent advert for data science, showing the value it can add. In particular, it’s been great to see the business areas we worked with building up their local data science skills as a consequence.

What’s the talk about and what are the key takeaways?

The talk will cover some of the techniques we used to get, process and use new data sources under time pressure, including what we’ve learnt from the process. The key takeaways are:

  • Non-traditional datasets contain some really useful information – and can form part of the toolkit even in normal times;
  • Building partnerships is key;
  • A suite of useful building blocks, such as helper packages or code adapted from cleverer people helps speed things up;
  • Working fast doesn’t mean worse outcomes.

We look forward to seeing you at Mango’s Big Data London, Meet Up, 22nd September 6-8pm, Olympia ML Ops Theatre. You can sign up here.

Guest speaker, Adam Hughes is one of The Bank of England’s Data Scientists, https://www.linkedin.com/in/adam-james-hughes/