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Five minute profile: Aileen Grieve

Aileen Grieve, in sunglasses and holding icecream, stands in front of a scene of the forth rail bridge
Five minute profiles

Research Data Scotland

08 Mar 2024

We caught up with Aileen Grieve, Data Analyst, to find out about her background and current projects.

What’s your role at RDS and what does a typical workday involve? 

I’m a Data Analyst in Research Data Scotland’s Data Curation Team. My focus is on developing the code and processes in ways that increase their efficiency and robustness. I also work on the synthetic data project where I have been developing simple synthetic data from open data dictionaries, with the aim of enabling researchers to understand a bit more about the data they want to work with before they gain access to the real thing.  

My days normally involve a lot of coding up data processing pipelines, helping other analysts troubleshoot code, writing up documentation to sit alongside the development work and meeting with the other analysts to understand how they work and where I can see opportunities to improve processes, quality assurance and reproducibility.  


What’s your background and how does it give you additional insight to your work at RDS? 

After completing my master's degree in actuarial science at University College Dublin, I worked as a trainee actuary in pensions and investment. But once I passed my associate exams, I decided it wasn’t for me — not the best order of doing things! 
I started teaching myself R and SQL (coding languages) and ended up working as an analytical consultant, helping build analytical solutions to business problems for a variety of clients. These weren’t just technical roles; I was in contact with lots of different stakeholders and clients daily to communicate results.  Following that, I ended up falling into a teaching role on the data analysis course at CodeClan, which was a digital skills academy. While teaching was never something I’d considered doing before, I absolutely loved working there and met so many amazing people — staff and students. 

I’ve always had an interest in the third sector, and while working in those roles I also did a lot of volunteering of data analysis skills for different charities. After CodeClan, I started a role at British Red Cross as a Data Scientist, where I learnt a huge amount about humanitarian data analysis, open data and coding best practices from some incredibly talented colleagues.  


“My experience working in data projects across such different organisations and sectors, and communicating results to a range of audiences, has given me a real interest in reproducibility...”

Aileen Grieve

My experience working in data projects across such different organisations and sectors, and communicating results to a range of audiences, has given me a real interest in reproducibility and all the things that comes with. From working across documentation and coding best practices, to version control and quality assurance, these skills I’ve picked up along the way have been incredibly helpful in my current role with RDS.  


What’s a highlight and a challenge of your role? 

A challenge has been understanding the different partners and how they all work together in the landscape of research data. And the number of acronyms that comes with it!  

But with this has come a lot of learning about a field which has a real impact on both researchers and the people that can benefit from their research.  

There are always going to be challenges when it comes to working collaboratively in secure environments, but the security of the data is of the utmost importance.  

Seeing how a lot of my past experience can be applied in this role has been a real highlight for me, and I hope that means I can make some positive, meaningful impact during my time at Research Data Scotland.  


“I was hugely drawn to the mission of RDS due to the potential impact it can have on the people around us — the Scottish population.”

Aileen Grieve

What difference do you hope RDS will make? 

I was hugely drawn to the mission of RDS due to the potential impact it can have on the people around us — the Scottish population. Anecdotally, I’d heard of the challenges of accessing data for research, even though I’m not from a research background, so I understood it to be an important issue that was potentially tricky to resolve. 
I love working for a smaller organisation where I feel like I have tangible input, while at the same time achieving real impact due to the way we work with our network of partner organisations. I’m passionate about decisions being driven by data and evidence and believe that the mission of RDS is to achieve that for decisions made at policy level, which could see real positive impact for Scottish citizens.  


What would be your "Mastermind" specialist subject? 

Miss Marple or Excel. Whichever is cooler.  


Who, real-life or public figure, has inspired or motivated you in your career or life?  

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some hugely talented people across all my roles who have been so open to sharing their knowledge and experience.  
Along with the data team at British Red Cross who are doing some amazing work (and notably making it all publicly available), I have to mention my colleagues at CodeClan, particularly Stephanie Boyle and Del Middlemiss. I have, and continue to, learn so much from them. They are always willing to help others – whether than be technical help or career advice – and I believe continue to make the world a little better in doing so.   


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