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Choosing a Database? Just Keep It Simple

When choosing a database for your project or programme, made to measure software or flashy online tools aren’t necessarily the right choice.

If you’re going to gather and analyse data in a serious way of course you need a database of some sort and, having spent much of my academic and professional career buried in them, I’m very much an advocate. But I too often see evidence of the database itself being regarded as the end rather than the means – as the solution to the challenge at hand rather than a tool for addressing it.

Perhaps that’s because we all so often feel under pressure, either external or self-imposed, to demonstrate what we have delivered in concrete terms. A specially commissioned database, perhaps with a catchy name and fancy interface, is something a project manager can point to and say, ‘I made this.’

The problem is that it takes huge amounts of time, resources and testing to create excellent software from scratch or to implement a powerful online tool, meaning that in practice these products all too often become clunky, creaky and frustrating. And products that don’t work well don’t get used.

As always, the answer is to focus on what you want to achieve. That will help you understand what kind of data you need to collect, who will be collecting and managing it and, therefore, what kind of system you need to house it.

Sometimes, of course, a custom-designed database or powerful online application are absolutely the right choice but, in my view, those occasions are actually very rare. More often than not the humble, rather plain Microsoft Access, or a similar tried and tested generalist professional product, is not only cheaper but also better suited to the task. Remember, these programmes have been worked on over the course of not only years but decades, and have huge amounts of resources behind their development and customer support programmes. Standard software also makes sharing, archiving and moving between systems faster and easier in most cases.

It is also possible to customise Access databases to a fairly high degree, either in-house using the software’s in-built features, using third-party software, or by hiring developers to create a bespoke front end interface without getting bogged down in the complicated underlying machinery.

And cloud data storage has made all this easier and cheaper than ever.

In conclusion, I’d like people to recognise that the real deliverable isn’t necessarily software, and that there’s no shame in off-the-peg. After all, a database is only as good as the information it holds and a clean set of useful, appropriate data is what people should really be proud of.

We’re hiring! Quantitative Researcher / Analyst

Vacancy – Quantitative Researcher / Analyst Senior Quantitative Researcher / Analyst

Get the Data (GtD) is a successful and growing company, both in London and in Atlanta USA. GtD’s exciting social impact analysis approach is helping organisations on both sides of the Atlantic to measure, learn and prove their social impact.

At GtD we offer our employees an opportunity to gain extensive experience within all aspects of social impact analytics (SIAs) whilst working alongside leading social impact analysts and thought leaders in the industry.

Our service offering is unique in the industry. This means you will be gaining invaluable insights into, and experience of, SIAs. We are innovative and forward thinking so you will be helping to advance and evolve our social impact analytics tools and systems knowing that whilst you are doing so, you are ultimately helping other organisations improve the impact they have on society.

We offer our employees a supportive working environment, with training provided, to help you develop and enhance your skills.

We are looking for both newly qualified and more experienced quantitative researchers and analysts. You could be looking for your first role or want to apply your analytical skills to something more rewarding. But you must be passionate about how high quality, well communicated analysis can improve social outcomes. You will be looking forward to influencing senior people in the police, courts, probation services and third sector organisations on both sides of the Atlantic.

In other words, we are most interested in your potential.

Therefore you will be a self-starter, relish the opportunity to help a business grow and want to learn and apply advanced analytical and statistical techniques. You will provide quantitative analysis skills to our evaluation and social impact analysis practice in the areas of criminal justice, education and housing. Specifically you will support an evaluation of an intervention to reduce offending by high harm offenders, a project to predict reoffending rates and an evaluation of a young person’s training initiative. You will also work on police projects with our sister company Crest Analytics.

Quantitative researcher / analyst

You can demonstrate these essential skills:

  • Graduate degree in a subject with a substantial mathematical or statistics component
  • Report writing for non-technical audiences
  • Experience of using Microsoft Excel skills
  • Experience using SPSS syntax or R
  • Experience of applying statistical modelling techniques including regression analysis
  • Team working and ability to update and inform directors and project managers on progress and risks, and how to mitigate those.
  • Work independently to complete project tasks
  • Ability to work independently to improve your quantitative research and analysis skills, and to support the director to develop new products and business opportunities
  • Microsoft Office or equivalent and email
  • Willingness to travel abroad

 

Desirable skills for this opportunity are:

  • Understanding of or experience of the role of research and analysis in either criminal justice policy, careers and training, homelessness or third sector
  • Experience of using databases and writing SQL
  • Masters degree or PhD with a substantial statistical analysis component
  • One or more years’ experience of quantitative research or analysis

 

Senior Quantitative Researcher / Analyst

You can demonstrate these essential skills:

  • Graduate degree in a subject with a substantial mathematical or statistics component
  • Three or more years’ experience of quantitative research or analysis
  • Report writing and presentations for non-technical audiences
  • Good Microsoft Excel skills
  • Good SPSS syntax or R skills
  • Experience of SQL
  • Experience of applying statistical modelling techniques to complex social issues
  • Team working and ability to update and inform directors and project managers on progress and risks, and how to mitigate those.
  • Project management of research or analytical projects
  • Work independently to complete project tasks
  • Ability to work independently to improve your quantitative research and analysis skills, and to support the director to develop new products and business opportunities
  • Microsoft Office or equivalent and email
  • Willingness to travel abroad

 

Desirable skills for this opportunity are:

  • Understanding of or experience of the role of research and analysis in either criminal justice policy, careers and training, homelessness or third sector
  • Masters degree or PhD with a substantial statistical analysis component
  • Experience of web development with C# skills

 

Making an application

You will work from our London office (pro rata 38 hours per week). A competitive salary will be paid dependent upon skills and experience.

If you are interested please send your CV and cover letter with any current salary stated to iqqra.aziz@getthedata.co.uk by 5pm on the 27th October 2017.  Please indicate in your letter whether you are interested in a full-time or part-time position. Please also indicate if there are any dates in late October or early November you cannot make for an interview. If you wish to discuss the role please email jack.cattell@getthedata.co.uk.

 

Predicting the Final CRC Re-Offending Rates

Predicting the Final CRC Reoffending Rates

Predicting the Final CRC Reoffending Rates

On October 26th 2017, the Ministry of Justice will publish the first Transforming Reoffending proven reoffending rates. These will describe the October to December 2015 cohort’s proven reoffending rate and compare this to a 2011 baseline rate (go here for an explanation). If a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) does better than the baseline rate they will be paid a bonus. In this blog I am using descriptive statistics to present a prediction of what the final rates will be.

England and Wales Reoffending Rate

Over the last year the Ministry of Justice has published this cohort’s, and each subsequent cohort’s, reoffending rate every 3 months. The national reoffending rate across all CRCs is described in the figure below (these figures are adjusted for differences in likelihood of reoffending across cohorts). Each bar represents a different cohort and gaps exist where the data have not yet been published.

 

Ministry of Justice Proven Reoffending Quarterly Statistics

Source: Ministry of Justice Proven Reoffending Quarterly Statistics

Definition: Months after commencement is the minimum number of months after commencement for an offender in the October 2015 to December 2015 cohort. However in the figures published, the follow up period varies depending on when within those 3 months the offender started.

 

The results are similar across the cohorts. After 8 months, 33% of offenders will have reoffended, and then 39% after 11 months, 42% after 14 months and 43% after 17 months. Most offending will occur within the first 8 months and the subsequent increases are smaller each time.

Predicting the final October to December 2015 rate

In order to predict the final reoffending rate at 18 months I need to estimate the trend. There are different options for doing this, and I will explain in a forthcoming blog how I selected the appropriate method. However, the trend I calculated for the October to December 2015 cohort is presented in the figure below.

 

Predicting the final October to December 2015 rate

Source: Ministry of Justice Proven Reoffending Quarterly Statistics

Definition: Months after commencement is the minimum number of months after commencement for an offender in the October 2015 to December 2015 cohort. However in the figures published, the follow up period varies depending on when within those 3 months the offender started.

 

The blue squares describe the published England and Wales reoffending rates, the red line is the fitted trend, and the red dot describes the predicted reoffending rate after 18 months. The predicted reoffending rate was just under 45% using this method. The selected reoffending trend is a curve to represent the reduction in the rate of increase as time progresses. Even from the limited data released, the curve shows an expected rapid increase in the first months after the start of an order or licence, but over time this increase is not sustained.  This trend is consistent with other research we have conducted using more detailed data.

October to December 2015 CRC results

I extended the same analysis to individual CRCs. When the final results are published, a CRC’s reoffending rate will be compared to a 2011 baseline rate. Since individual baseline rates for each CRC’s baseline have not been published, I cannot anticipate that analysis. However, the baseline OGRS scores (a measure of how likely someone is to reoffend) have been  published and so I was able to compare a CRC’s predicted reoffending rate to the baseline OGRS rate, adjusting for differences in the likelihood of reoffending between the baseline and the October to December 2015 cohorts. The spread in differences between the baseline OGRS rate and the predicted reoffending rate for each CRC are presented in the figure below. I have anonymised each CRC because I believed highlighting relative performance in the public domain with important information missing would not be ethical. If, however, you want to know how your CRC or area is performing please contact me.

 

October to December 2015 CRC results

Source: Ministry of Justice Proven Reoffending Quarterly Statistics

Eight of the 21 CRCS were predicted to beat the baseline OGRS score. The largest difference is 5.1%, followed by two CRCs expected to beat the baseline OGRS score by  4.4%. Twelve of the CRCs were predicted to perform worse that the baseline OGRS. For five of these the difference is less 1%, but three were expected to exceed the baseline OGRS rate by more than 3%.

Next steps

The analysis presented here is based upon a description of the data. The analysis therefore does not allow for the uncertainty in the predicted reoffending rate. A more realistic analysis would present the range of outcomes that are likely to happen. The presented analysis also assumes that the data are independent. In fact a CRC’s current reoffending rate will be dependent upon the rate 3 months ago and the current rate cannot be lower than the previous measure. A statistical model can allow for these issues and I will present that approach in a subsequent blog. This does not mean the presented results are wrong. Instead, it means greater insight and use is possible as we expand the analytical approach.