The Cabinet Office has launched a major recruitment drive to staff up a new data science unit in No 10, as part of Dominic Cummings plans to reform government by appointing “misfits and weirdos” with data skills to join the civil service.
The search has kicked off with a job ad for a £135,000-a-year head of a new analytical unit, who will work inside Downing Street.
The ad states: “The analytical unit, known as 10 ‘data science’ or ‘10ds’ is a pseudo start-up within No 10 designed to drive forward the quantitative revolution. The current plan is to establish a data engineering team, data science team, a skunkworks and an analytical deep dive unit.”
The team will advise the Prime Minister on decisions requiring “fast-paced yet robust analysis”, such as infrastructure decisions and meeting the UK’s net-zero goal. The ad continues: “This is an exciting opportunity to work at the heart of government as part of a new venture. You will be responsible for driving forward and establishing No10’s quantitative ability, helping to promote change across Whitehall through the establishment of a newly formed analytical unit.
“The vision of 10ds is a skunkworks-type organisation that builds innovative software to allow the PM to make data driven decisions and thereby transform government.”
The phrase “skunkworks” – named after Lockheed’s World War II Skunk Works project, used to develop new aircraft designs – refers to a small and autonomous team working on innovative projects, while unshackled by bureaucracy.
The unit will be made up of a team supporting No 10 directly; a data science team to help solve-long term problems across Whitehall; and a data engineering team to provide “high-quality, timely data, creating more effective decision making”.
As well as technical expertise in data engineering and statistical and machine learning, the head of the unit will be expected to demonstrate “inspiring leadership and acting as a catalyst for change”, the ad said.
The Cabinet Office is also seeking a head of analysis and data for the unit who, along with its leader, will be a “key member of the senior leadership team in No.10”.
The successful candidate for this job will earn up to £117,800-a-year and be supported by Grade 6 and 7 analysts, who will pocket up to £70,877.
“A key part of this job will be to provide challenge to departments, and to lay out what you believe is the best option to decision makers,” the ad for the head of data reads. “This role focuses on reaching the right answer based on the best available data. As such, this role prioritises data interpretation not data fitting.”
Cummings first revealed plans to overhaul Whitehall’s recruitment procedures in a blog post published in January, in which he wrote he wanted to appoint “super-talented weirdos” with “genuine cognitive diversity” and avoid senior civil service applicants with Oxford and Cambridge English degrees.
He added: “We want to hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds to work in Downing Street… The categories are roughly: data scientists and software developers; economists; policy experts; project managers; communication experts; junior researchers one of whom will also be my personal assistant; weirdos and misfits with odd skills.”
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