Presentation Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Driving decision making and transformation through question-based informatics



SEPA paperless lab academy 2018

Name:            Margaret Wallace

Title:               Senior Data Scientist, Informatics Unit

Company:    Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Presenter´s biography

Margaret is an experienced data scientist with a background in academia and data management. She received her MESci Geophysics and Geology from the University of Liverpool, UK, followed by a PhD in Polar Oceanography through a joint studentship with British Antarctic Survey and the Open University. Following her studies she has gained 10 years’ experience in environmental research, data management, analysis and informatics.

Throughout this time she has led multiple data collection and analysis projects, and frequently uses statistical packages and web-based technologies to make the best use of data and disseminate information to those who need it.

She joined SEPA in 2013, initially as the lead Spotfire developer for Scotland’s Environment Website, and now manages a wide range of projects, with a particular interest in the use of machine learning to enable smarter decisions.


Data, informatics and analytics are not only for technical staff and data scientists. They can enhance and revolutionise how everyone in the workplace operates and makes decisions. We use question-based analytics and informatics tools driven by Spotfire to engage with all areas of SEPA business, from human resources and finance to regulation and science. This supports staff of all levels to improve efficiency and collaboration, and to make better evidence-based decisions. We also share information and analytics externally via public tools, thereby improving engagement with our customers, partners and the wider community. Crucially, through a heavy focus on answering key questions and bringing disparate data sources together in accessible and intuitive tools, we engage with all staff (including those uncomfortable with technology or data) and assist in SEPA’s transformation from a data-rich organisation to an information-rich one. During this talk I will cover how our agile, collaborative and rapid response Spotfire development methods are helping make this happen with live examples of question driven analytics, as well as our use of machine learning to provide dynamic information hubs.


SEPA paperless lab academy The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is Scotland’s principal environmental regulator, protecting and improving Scotland’s environment.

As a non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government, our role is to make sure that the environment and human health are protected, to ensure that Scotland’s natural resources and services are used as sustainably as possible and contribute to sustainable economic growth.

With around 1300 people based across Scotland, from the Highlands and Islands to the Borders, we regulate and advise on a wide range of environmental activities.

As an organisation with a strong science base, we constantly assess the quality of our environment by monitoring our air, land and water and use our findings to advise government, industry and the public on environmental best practice.

We help business and industry to understand and comply with their environmental responsibilities and legislation and have a range of enforcement powers which we can apply to ensure that regulations are complied with.

In addition, we work in partnership with other agencies, organisations and policy makers, to increase environmental understanding and build consensus on environmental priorities and issues.

We are also responsible for delivering Scotland's flood warning system, working with the Scottish Government to deliver Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan, operating the Scottish aspect of the Radioactive Incident Monitoring Network and work with the Health and Safety Executive to control the risk of major accidents at industrial sites.