New journal to explore the impact of data science on government policy

A new Open Access journal will explore the role of data science in shaping government policy – and its possible impact on privacy and public trust.

Launched this week, Data & Policy is the result of a collaboration between Cambridge University Press and the annual Data for Policy conference, being held this year at UCL on 11-12 June.

Data & Policy will publish: original, peer-reviewed  articles on how data science can improve policy-making, governance capabilities and citizen services; commentaries exploring the ethical implications of data-driven research and its impact on privacy, law and public trust; and replication studies to promote transparent, reproducible research.

The Alan Turing Institute – the UK’s national institute for data science – and UCL have pledged support for the conference and the journal, providing funding that will enable unfunded researchers to publish their research on an open access basis.  The journal will be free to read on Cambridge Core, the online repository of books and journals published by the Press.

The opening manifesto from Data & Policy editors Zeynep Engin (UCL), Jon Crowcroft (University of Cambridge and The Alan Turing Institute) and Stefaan Verhulst (The Governance Lab, New York University) says that while the potential of data – now generated at a massive scale as a result of digital technologies embedded in everyday life – and data analytics have been evident for some time, initiatives using data for policy have been the exception rather than the norm. This is due to a number of obstacles, including: the inaccessibility of much data; gaps in technical and conceptual understanding; and a growing lack of public trust about the way that data is collected, analyzed and used.

The editors call for deeper understanding of “Policy-Data Interactions”, in order to reach a“consistent, symmetrical approach to consideration of systems of policy and data, how they interact with one another”.

The Data for Policy conference has initiated such policy-data interactions by bringing together researchers from different disciplines, people with technical expertise and those with knowledge of different policy domains. Data & Policy aims to sustain this debate and extend beyond the conference by linking together other institutions and networks, and providing a trusted venue for researchers, policy specialists and all who are interested in the implications of data for citizens, services and how they are governed. 

Brigitte Shull, Director of Scholarly Communications Research and Development at Cambridge University Press, said: “We are pleased to be working with Zeynep, Jon and Stefaan, and their international board. Data & Policy is embracing the movement towards more open, collaborative and transparent ways of conducting and communicating research. We are excited to see how the potential of this is realised in their effort to bring together technical, policy and other communities.” 

Adrian Smith, Institute Director and Chief Executive of The Alan Turing Institute, said: “We are delighted to support the prestigious Data for Policy conference and the development of its new open-access journal Data & Policy. The Turing is pleased to bolster these ongoing efforts to create a global forum for interdisciplinary debates around data in government and we look forward to continuing this collaboration.”