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10 March 2008 PR 08/27

Loughborough University academic calls for new Government department to prevent further data loss disasters

A Loughborough University expert in information science has called for the creation of a new Government department and minister to prevent further knowledge, information and data management disasters.

In recent months there have been a number of high profile catastrophes in this area, including the loss of the entire child benefit database by HM Revenue and Customs, the loss of patient records by several English NHS Trusts, and the failure of the Crown Prosecution Service to check DNA data from 4,000 serious crimes abroad for more than a year.

Dr Mark Hepworth from the University’s Department of Information Science believes a fundamental change is needed in how people manage knowledge, information and data.

“It is recognised that we are a society where information and knowledge management are fundamental to our success,” Dr Hepworth explains. “We are described as an information society and a knowledge based economy, and yet we are loathe to develop the skills and knowledge needed to achieve this in a systematic way. As a result we experience, on a regular basis, increasing numbers of information and knowledge management disasters.”

He believes that data is lost due to a lack of information management policies and information illiterate staff. To address this problem he argues that a new Government department needs to be created and minister appointed, whose remit it would be to tackle this issue in both the public and the private sector. They would have responsibility for developing:

• the potential for everyone, both in their personal and work life, to be information literate

• the policies that foster the systematic management of information and knowledge in our society

• an educational system that enables people from an early stage to be conscious, confident and competent in knowledge and information management

Dr Hepworth added: “Information and knowledge management needs to be taken seriously. This necessitates fundamental changes in our formal and informal educational practices, as well as changes in the workplace. However, while people have to take this on amongst all their other roles and have not been given the skills and knowledge to do so it will not happen. Therefore this issue needs to be tackled at a national level by people who have the vision and knowledge to ensure that our population is genuinely prepared for the national, let alone global, knowledge based information economy.

“By establishing a new Government department there will be dedicated people who have the responsibility of identifying and driving the changes that need to take place in all segments of our society. It is not that we do not have the expertise – we have internationally recognised scholars and practitioners in information and knowledge management. However, instead of working against the flow we need an environment where this knowledge is recognised as important and is embraced.”

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Notes for editors:

  1. Dr Mark Hepworth is a Senior Lecturer in the University’s Department of Information Science, a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and committee member for the Special Interest Group in Information Literacy.

  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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