DataScience post Brexit

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This is not an analysis of how people voted, or why. If you’re interested then look at some of John Burn-Murdoch’s analysis in the FT, or Lord Ashcroft’s polling on reasons.

It is, however, an attempt to start to think about some of the implications for DataScience and data scientists in the new world.

Of course, we don’t really know what the new world will be, but here we go:

Big companies

The big employers are still going to need data science and data scientists. Where they are pretty much stuck (telcos, for example) then data science will continue. If there is a recession then it may impact investment, but it’s just as likely to encourage more data science.

Of course it’s a bit different for multi-nationals. Especially for banks (investment, not retail). These are companies with a lot of money, and big investments in data science. Initial suggestions are that London may lose certain financial rights that come with being in the EU, and that 30-70,000 jobs may move.

Some of these will, undoubtably, be data science roles.

Startups

But what about startups? There are a few obvious things: regulation, access to markets, and investment.

We may find that the UK becomes a less country with less red-tape.  I somehow doubt it. But even if we do, in order to trade with Europe we will need to comply (more of that later).

Access to markets is another factor. And it is one that suggests that startups might locate, or relocate, in the EU.

Investment is also key. Will VCs be willing to risk their money in the UK? There is some initial evidence that they are less keen on doing so. News that some deals have been postponed or cancelled. Time will tell.

In many ways startups are the businesses most able to move. But the one thing that might, just might keep them in the UK is the availability of data scientists. After the US the UK is probably the next most developed market for data scientists.

Data regulation

At the moment the UK complies with EU data provisions using the creaking Data Protection Act 1998. That was due to be replaced by the new data directive. But from the UK’s perspective that may no longer happen.

That brings different challenges. Firstly the UK was a key part of the team arguing for looser regulation, so it’s likely that the final data directive may be stronger than it would otherwise have been.

Secondly, the data directive may simply not apply. But in that case what happens to movement of data from the EU to the UK? Safe Harbor, the regime that allowed EU companies to send data to the US, has been successfully challenged in the courts, so it is unlikely that a similar approach would fly.

What then? Would we try to ignore the data directive? Would we create our own, uniquely English data environment? Would we hope that the DPA would still be usable 20, 30 or 40 years after it was written?

People

Data scientists, at the moment, are rare. When (or if) jobs move, then data scientists will be free to move with them. They will almost always be able to demonstrate that they have the qualities wanted by other countries.

And many of our great UK data scientists are actually great EU data scientists. Will they want to stay? They were drawn here by our vibrant data science community… but if that starts to wither?