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Data Science: Paving the Way For More Open, Interactive Data Analysis

Guest blog post by Gemma. Gemma can be reached at [email protected].
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Data science is still, in many ways, the new kid on the block. In fact, there is often a fair amount of confusion as to what actually constitutes a data scientist, with a number of analysts and number crunchers assuming they fit the bill. Of course, the role of a data scientist is one that requires a great degree of analytical skill, but also encompasses a wide range of other disciplines that make the term much more specialised than some might assume. However, there are a number of recent developments that are turning the field into a melting pot of innovation and interactivity.
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The Changing World of Data
Educational programmes focused on data science are still fairly rare and in their infancy. This tends to mean that real, experienced data scientists are still a rare breed, and in demand as a result. This has led some organisations tackling large data problems to come up with innovative approaches that display an aspect to data science that could have a huge impact in the way problems are approached and solved in the future. Company Topcoder, working on a project for NASA with aims to create usable solutions for searching for asteroids for space missions, presented problems to their online community. This was a result of previous successes when the company approached their online community in regards to improving the production speed of medical kits for NASA, and the results were impressive. This kind of public interaction could have very wide reaching benefits for data science, as it enables the pooling and access of resources often far beyond what a few data scientists are able to achieve alone. As a result, not only could more interest be generated in data science as a result, but many more companies and data science specialist organisations may also start adopting this approach. With Big Data on the increase, especially in financial and ecommerce sectors, more and more companies are keen to attract and retain the services of professional and capable data scientists. This comes at a time where more and more financial products are offering touchless and digital only interactions for example, and this trend is only likely to grow. As a result, burgeoning technologies are likely to require in depth data analysis as they continue to flourish, and data scientists, still being a fairly niche group, are likely to benefit from employing the resources of the online world in helping companies to solve and understand the ever increasing amount of data.
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Attracting the Next Generation
There is already a growing number of educational institutions offering professional and academically recognised qualifications in data science, with some taking a unique and creative approach to teaching the increasingly complex and wide ranging subject. Istanbul’s Sehir University is a good example of this, being the only university in Turkey to offer a Masters level qualification in data science. Many more educational institutions are beginning to follow suit however, and this is just as well. This is perhaps just as well, as while the open and community led breakthroughs in the last few years have been encouraging, there is still a severe lack of data science professionals that is, according to some commentators, holding almost all sectors back. The financial sector is one of the sectors least equipped to handle big data according to some, and this means that the knowledge hidden inside is being lost or mis-handled. Additionally, being ill-equipped to handle data on this scale also means that the sector remains one of the worst in terms of handling customer data effectively. The public sector also shares some of these problems, especially in some European countries. Ultimately, while there are some fantastic innovations being made in the world or data science, as big data continues to become ever more present, the need for data science professionals continues to grow. While community and public engagement is certainly a positive force, and likely to at least ease the burden and demand for the time being, it is more important than ever that the resources are available for budding data scientists to take advantage of in order to meet the growing demand for well trained professionals in this expansive and ever more interesting field.

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