News & Blog

Our third DataFest was a phenomenal success!

Posted on March 29, 2019

r two week festival of Data Innovation in Scotland ran from 11th to 22nd March, showcasing Scotland’s role in data science and artificial intelligence, and this year focused on collaboration and doing #DataTogether as a community.

DataFest has grown again from last year, now extending over a two week period with even more Fringe Events in even more locations around Scotland, plus we introduced a new DataTech event focused on the more technical aspects of data science.

Our new DataTech event

We’re delighted that our first DataTech was such an amazing success. It was an interesting day that brought together members of industry, the public sector and academia for technical discussions of the important topics in data science and to share emerging research in the sector. The day opened with an excellent keynote talk from Data Scientist Jared Lander on Making Sense of AI, ML and Data Science and proceeded with a series of talks that went into technical detail in dealing with raw data, supercomputing, dataviz tools, reproducibility and much more. We enjoyed seeing many of our Masters alumni from the UK and EU in the crowd, who are now working across industry and public sector in Scotland – great evidence of the success of our MSc programme.

DataTalent in Glasgow

Data Talent Scotland is all about helping students find jobs and companies find great talent. This year brought together a pool of over 400 talented data students and graduates with some genuinely exciting companies looking to recruit. There was a real buzz in the exhibition room and it was fantastic to see how engaged all the students were and how busy the stands were during all the breaks.

There were also workshops to help graduates improve their CV's and get to know the companies better, plus great talks to educate and inspire.

It was particularly inspiring to hear from Roger Halliday, the Chief Statistician at the Scottish Government, talking about his career journey and the enormous influence he has through providing the data on which big decisions are made by the Scottish Government. Also, it was wonderful for attendees to hear from Greig Cowan who secured a job with RBS at Data Talent last year and this year was presenting on stage.

DataSummit - the 2 day International Conference

DataSummit, our two-day international conference held in Edinburgh, had an amazing line up of inspirational and thought provoking speakers, with a huge range of topics covered. We were delighted to have the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, take time to come and talk to us about how important the Scottish Government thinks data is in Scotland and giving credit to the work that we do at The Data Lab to encourage data-driven innovation and provide a pipeline of talent through our MSc programme.

Read FutureScot’s article on Nicola Sturgeon’s visit: 'Data-driven innovation has the potential to deliver great benefits to Scottish businesses and the economy more widely'

On the anniversary of the Cambridge-Analytica scandal, it was exciting to open the event with the whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who provided a very engaging and enlightening insight into what exactly happened one year ago.

Further highlights (although it is difficult to select just a few!) of the event were a passionate & inspirational presentation by the BBC’s ‘face of space’ Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock on how we can and should be influencing children and encouraging careers in STEM, a fascinating and scary talk on biometric technologies from Stephanie Hare and a very entertaining talk from Liberty Vittert on the misuse of statistics and the importance of checking what the data actually says when you see sensational headlines in the news. Dr Sue Black’s talk gave an interesting contrast to Christopher Wylie, as she talked about the power of social media to do good in her ‘Save Bletchley Park’ campaign.

Audiences enjoyed several positive and balanced panel discussions, with lots of opportunity throughout the event to ask questions of the presenters.

We've had a lot of amazing feedback from attendees, who traveled to the event from all around the world, and also from our speakers, who all thought DataFest was a clear showcase of Scotland's cohesive and vibrant data community.

Women in Data Science

As part of WiDS2019, the three talented girls that make up the Turing’s Testers (Rachel Cooper, Catherine Fitzsimons and Amina Tahir) with the support of their exceptional computer science teacher Toni Scullion, hosted an event for S2 girls aimed at encouraging more girls into careers in the tech sector. 100 S2 girls qualified for a place at the event by solving the Cyber Treasure Hunt the Turing’s Testers ran in the lead up to the day, and the final stage of the competition was carried out in a series of workshops throughout the day.

The 100 school girls competed by solving a series of cyber challenges in the workshops that included coding a fitbit, cyber stalking and solving maths and programming problems against the clock. Our congratulations to the winning team from St Kentigern’s Academy, for their wonderful achievement!


Mathematician, science and television presenter, Hannah Fry, gave a very entertaining talk on maths, patterns and data, including a crime-solving game using location data. We hope that the series of s throughout the day will have given the S2 girls confidence and encouragement to grab opportunities they come across with both hands and the bravery to make things happen. We would love to think that our event has inspired some of the girls to pursue a career in the tech sector.

Read BQ Live’s article on the event.

Fringe Events

Over 60 fringe events took place throughout Scotland, held by members of the data and tech community and included meetups, hackathons, debates, workshops and activities focused on data innovation including the chance to build your own satellite, LEGO building and an event at the V&A in Dundee.

The Highlands & Islands hosted a week-long suite of events including the Executive Launch where the new Data Lab Hub TDL2 was announced by Kate Forbes MSP, and the Fringe programme was officially launched.

STATWARSThe Aberdeen Fringe programme saw significant growth this year, with 8 events happening across the 2 weeks and involving organisations all across the board, from The University of Aberdeen and RGU, to Scottish Enterprise, The OGTC and a range of collaborative events organised by a range of organisations, bringing the #DataTogether theme to live.

The STATWARS event was the culmination of a pilot study running for a few months with local schools, designed to promote data and digital skills in secondary and primary schools, and the event itself launched the year-long programme that will incorporate schools from across the UK.

Thank You!

DataFest19 has been our biggest yet, and that is only possible because of everyone who took part. Scotland's community never ceases to amaze us, and an event like DataFest wouldn't be possible without you. We hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did!

We would like to thank everyone who took part in DataFest19, our partners and sponsors, the team at FutureX who helped us run Data Talent and Data Summit, our fantastic speakers and presenters, every team and organisation who organised fringe events across Scotland, our incredible volunteers, our designer, photographer, videographers, caterers, AV team, venues, hosts, and everyone who supported, attended and participated in any way in DataFest19.

Bring on DataFest 2020!


We will be sharing photos, videos and podcasts of the events soon, so make sure you subscribe to our Data Lab newsletter, the DataFest mailing list and our YouTube channel to get notified when they go live.


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