Digital Footprints: Strategic Advice Team

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Geog, Politics and Sociology


Digital Footprints Data (DFD) have the potential to revolutionise our capacity to engage with and solve the grand challenges that face our world--but only with intentional efforts to understand and shape the existing DFD landscape. In this broader context, national research councils play a unique role: the capacity to strategically invest and the visibility to set expectations around data access, integration, and utility, as well as training, infrastructure, ethics and capacity building.

We aim to contribute to the ESRC's impact in the DFD arena through the formation of a Strategic Advice Team, which aims to (1) increase understanding of the DFD landscape and participating constituencies and ensure this understanding is communicated effectively to the ESRC and (2) maximise visibility, leadership and 'buy-in' to the ESRC's DigitalFootprints (DF) investment, as well as related data-related investments such as Future Data Services.

We accomplish these tasks by developing and leading a structured and inclusive mechanism for contributing and synthesizing expert strategic advice to ESRC DF. Our activities engage with a variety of constituencies, from data providers to researchers, to users of research outputs. We simultaneously coordinate and provide "signal boost" for DF that builds excitement, interest and awareness of its suite of offerings.

To accomplish our goals, we assemble a Strategic Advice Team (PI & Co-Is) that brings together experts in computational social science, industry research, digital culture, data science and spatial analytics. Together, the Team covers a range of disciplines, career stages and professional contexts. In addition, the collaboration across two universities (Newcastle and Liverpool), the Alan Turing Institute and Microsoft ensures a range of expertise and perspectives are woven into all advisory activities.

We focus on data providers and access, data infrastructure, capacity and training, and impactful applications. We operationalise our vision through a combination of people and networks and 4 streams of activities that collect, synthesize and disseminate information to help us meet our four objectives:
1. Connect a fragmented DFD landscape through an international Advisory Group that assembles expertise from across the entire DFD community
2. Inventory and Map the DFD landscape through questionnaires and structured Delphi interviews that are anchored in Advisory Group expertise
3. Amplify value of ESRC investments through knowledge sharing and networking among current and future DFD grantees, Advisory Group members, and the wider community
4. Champion and highlight ESRC Data Infrastructure investments, including DF and Future Data Services activities, through visibility of Strategic Advice Team, workshop and Digital Data Dive activities and a diverse range of project outputs

The 4 streams of activity are, in brief:

Interviews and Inventory: questionnaires and interviews with 14 Advisory Group members and a potential 'snowball sample' regarding options and requirements for a successful DigitalFootprints investment.

Engagement and Consultation Workshops: 9 events that bring together Advisory Group, user community and stakeholders to explore and offer input on a set of specific topics related to DFD.

Digital Data Dives: 4 hands-on meetings that bring users and data providers together for day-long explorations of the access, analysis, outputs pipeline for specific topics, producing "use cases" that highlight the potential of DFD, as applied to important research and societal challenges.

Outcomes, Championship and Impact: expert and informed strategic advice provided on an ongoing basis to the ESRC and 6 reports that serve to drive discussion with the DF strategic advisory group, the Future Data Services team, and DFD stakeholders. Championing ESTC DF initiatives through formal and informal networking, workshops, Data Dives and in communications with Advisory Group.


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